Voters decriminalize marijuana in Detroit, three other Michigan cities, in landslide win

Voters in four Michigan cities passed local ballot measures decriminalizing marijuana in a resounding victory Tuesday for pot advocates.

Measures easily won in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint and Ypsilanti.

Also Tuesday, Kalamazoo voters approved a proposal to allow for more pot dispensaries after the city council decriminalized marijuana there last month.

So can you celebrate by sparking up a joint in any of these cities?

Not yet, advocates cautioned.

The new ordinances won’t go into effect until the elections are certified in a few days. And beware that the measures don’t prevent state and federal law enforcement from arresting people for pot possession.

It’s also unclear whether local police will arrest pot smokers under state or federal law.

“My belief is that Detroit police will respect the local law and the will of the people,” said Tim Beck, chairman of the Coalition for a Safer Detroit, the group that championed the measure.  “But we won’t know for sure what’s going to happen.”

In Detroit, the measure to decriminalize up to an ounce of pot for anyone 21 years or older passed with nearly two-thirds of the votes.

To learn more about the new law in Detroit and how it affects you, check out Beck’s website for frequently asked questions.

Pot advocates and others said the success of Tuesday’s measures demonstrates the public’s evolving opinions on marijuana – and how arrests for small possessions clog up resources when violent criminals are roaming the streets.

The Detroit Police Department has not yet made a public comment on the measure’s passage.

Here is a look at the measures:

Detroit: Residents 21 years and older can possess up to an ounce of pot on private property.

Flint: Residents 19 years and older can posses up to an ounce of marijuana.

Grand Rapids: Marijuana possession is now a civl infraction subject to a small fine; it’s not longer a misdemeanor punishable up to 90 days in prison.

Ypsilanti: Arrests for up to an ounce of marijuana should not be a priority of police. Note: Under the new law, police theoretically can still arrest someone for possession of small amounts.

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.