Election: Marijuana legalization in Detroit would keep focus on violent crime

If you’re 21, you have the right to guzzle a bottle of whiskey until you black out.

But get caught with a small amount of marijuana and you could spend up to a year behind bars.

Each year, the cash-strapped city of Detroit spends an average of $2.7 million prosecuting 1,500 people for marijuana possession.

Each of those arrests drains time and resources from an increasingly understaffed police force, which is combating a rise in violent crime, arsons and internal dysfunction.

On Nov. 6, Detroiters will have an opportunity to legalize up to an ounce of marijuana for residents 21 years and older. Similar votes are set for Colorado, Washington and Oregon.

The measure is a progressive, common sense answer to antiquated marijuana laws and the resources they squeeze from a police department already in crisis.

A victory, however, may be short-lived. City attorneys told council members earlier this year that the ordinance wouldn’t hold up in court.

That’s a chance we have to take.

So far, the city, state and federal government have been curiously silent on the ballot measure.

“ Shall Chapter 38, Offenses, Miscellaneous Provisions, Article XL, Controlled Substances and Drug Paraphernalia, of the 1984 Detroit City Code be amended to exempt adults, 21 years of age or older, from criminal prosecution under the article for use or possession of less than one (1) ounce of marijuana on private property in the City of Detroit by adding the following section:
Sec. 38-11-50. Applicability.

None of the provisions of this article shall apply to the use or possession of less than one (1) ounce of marijuana, on private property, by a person who has attained the age of 21 years.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.