Flint Cops Will Arrest Pot Offenders, Despite Decriminalization Vote

Change is difficult for some people. They grip tightly to the way things have always been because that’s all they’ve ever known, or care to know. Change is especially difficult when you are trying to take even a little bit of power from a notoriously power-hungry body or agency. Such is the case with the Flint, Michigan police, who are refusing to acknowledged the city ballot initiative that decriminalized marijuana.

“We’re still police officers,” said the Police Chief of Flint as he tried to explain why his officers won’t be abiding by the new city marijuana law or the wishes of the people they are tasked with protecting. “We’re still empowered to enforce the laws of the state of Michigan and the United States.”

Voters in Flint Michigan raised their voices to decriminalize possession of marijuana, less than one ounce. More than 60 percent of voters spoke in favor of the measure on election day. The law would allow people over the age of 19 years to possess up to one ounce of marijuana while on public property. It was just one of several similar ordinances passed in cities across the state this week.

But, Flint police aren’t warming up to the idea—despite clear voter intention.

“We’re still going to enforce the laws as we’ve been enforcing them,” said Chief Alvern Lock.

While the city of Flint might decriminalize marijuana possession, it’s still a crime under state law in Michigan. And as is evident from the federal raid of medical marijuana dispensaries across the country, it’s still a crime under federal law too.

Police Chief Lock is taking the same stance as the federal government when it comes to marijuana laws—and that stance says (in not so many words), “screw what the people want, we know what’s best.”

The government has historically taken a parental role in governing. But in a country known for its “democracy”, you would think a popular vote would be enough to change the laws. So far, however, in relation to the drug war, the popular opinion and even vote has not been enough.

So where does this leave the people of Flint? For now, in limbo. Until someone gives Chief Lock another directive, he and his officers will continue as business as usual. If, however, someone is arrested for possession of less than one ounce, there is a potentially solid defense argument with the new ordinance in place. After all, if your city law says it’s okay to have your pot and smoke it too, who is Chief Lock to tell you otherwise?

About David Matson

David writes about criminal justice issues.
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