Detroit Voters Decriminalize Some Marijuana Possession; Police Unsure What to Do

While states like Colorado and Washington were making headline-generating history on November 6th, the city of Detroit was making some history of its own. Voters there voted by a 65% to 35% margin to decriminalize an ounce or less of marijuana possession for anyone 21 years of age or older, as long as the possession is on private property.

But some law enforcement agencies are still trying to figure out how to tackle the new situation.

The state police say it doesn’t affect them at all. “We don’t enforce local ordinances, so nothing has changed for us,” State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said. “Marijuana is still illegal for us according to state law. Anyone who doesn’t have a medical marijuana card will be arrested for state possession.”

Kwame-ville in HDBut for city officials, things aren’t as cut-and-dried. “This legislation is being reviewed by the city of Detroit Law Department,” said Detroit Police Sgt. Eren Stephens of the Public Information Office.

And what about the local university? Wayne State University Police Chief Anthony Holt said his department sometimes gets calls on marijuana being detected at dormitories or apartment but he’s not aware of any such calls since the new law passed.

“We have not come up with an official policy,” he said. “It’s a federal law regarding (marijuana possession) so it’s probably something we’ll have to get an opinion on. But it’s not a real big priority for us now.”

This is what the issue boils down to for many in law enforcement; marijuana possession isn’t a priority. In a city that routinely sees over 300 homicides a year, resources simply cannot be wasted on marijuana users.

The Wayne County Sheriff’s Department seems just as unclear on how they’ll handle small amounts of marijuana possessed on private property.

“We have not developed a policy yet on that issue,” said Dennis Niemiec of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s being looked at by our training and legal departments.”

Wayne County Sheriff Benny N. Napoleon was against the measure before it was voted on. “It is unfortunate that we’ve come to a place where some are attempting to legalize something that is harmful to the community in a very significant way,” Napoleon said. “I would never support such a measure as it creates a litany of problems for all involved.”

Harmful to the community? I wonder how many of those 300+ homicides are directly attributable to marijuana? True, marijuana prohibition creates a violent subculture that does much harm to the community, in the form of gangs and dealers fighting for a slice of the lucrative black market, but to say marijuana itself harms a community is ignorant at best. And ignorance is dangerous when the ignorant person holds legal power.

Luckily, many people aren’t as short-sighted as Sheriff Napoleon ( an appropriate name), including voters in Detroit who are tired of police wasting their time on cannabis while hundreds die every year.

– Joe Klare

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