Ypsilanti ballot initiative seeks to direct police efforts away from marijuana enforcement
Editor's note: This story has been updated with information from the city clerk's office regarding the number of signatures required for this initiative.
A proposal to redirect police efforts away from enforcing laws against marijuana use in the city of Ypsilanti has secured enough signatures to be on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Courtesy of Students for Sensible Drug Policy
City Clerk Frances McMullen said the proposal organizers, the Eastern Michigan University student organization Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Ypsilanti Lowest Law Enforcement Priority initiative, secured 1,101 confirmed signatures.
For petition initiatives, 5 percent of the city's registered voters signatures must be obtained. McMullen said 700 were required.
Ypsilanti residents will vote on the following question:
"Shall the Ypsilanti City Charter be amended such that the use and/or consumption of one ounce or less of usable marijuana by adults 21 years or older is the lowest priority of law enforcement personnel?"
In May, the groups announced their efforts to secure enough votes for the initiative. Chuck Ream, political director of the LLEP, provided most of the funding for the campaign to secure votes.
Ream said SSDP members and other volunteers went door to door seeking signatures.
"The reaction was extraordinarily positive," he said. "People would rather be protected from robbery or murder than have the police chasing some kid for pot. Everyone wanted to sign even if they were not from the city of Ypsilanti."
Antonio Cosme, coordinator and organizer for the committee for a safer Ypsilanti, said he was surprised by the mixture of individuals interested in the initiative.
"We thought a lot of the older people would be against it, but I was surprised to find a lot of good discussion with people," Cosme said. "If it helps one person, it was worth all the effort. If a student gets a petty marijuana charage they can lose the opportunity to get federal grants and loans."
Cosme said organizers also received some resistance to the measure.
"We got a lot of people that just did not want to support anything that supports drugs," he said.
Other cities such as Seattle, San Francisco and Kalamazoo all passed LLEP initiatives, Ream said and he expects Ypsilanti to do the same. Ream said in November 2011, Kalamazoo voters by a nearly 2-1 margin voted to make the crime of the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis by adults the lowest priority of law enforcement employees.
"The city of Ypsilanti has had an extraordinary measure of reasonableness and support," Ream said. "It's not proper and its un-American to destroy someone’s life for a flower that grows out of the ground. I think the voters of Ypsilanti are going to top any of those numbers on that list."
Ream said if passed, the proposal will be "largely symbolic" but may lead to actual change.
"They illustrate the greatest divide between the voters and politicians that there is in American society," he said. "Ultimately the politicians will listen and the policies will begin to be similar."
Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for AnnArbor.com.Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.
Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.
Sad story of the potheads trying to tell the police no to enforce laws that bother them. It is still illegal and needs to be enforced. It will be such a sad statement on society of this passes.
Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.
People collecting signatures knocked on my door over a dozen times. I don't know why they kept coming back, but I kept signing. They usually stuck of patchouli. I wouldn't mind outlawing patchouli.
Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 4:55 p.m.
"People would rather be protected from robbery or murder than have the police chasing some kid for pot. Everyone wanted to sign even if they were not from the city of Ypsilanti." What's really sad are the numbers contained in the MSP crime report. The badges do a great job arresting cannabis consumers, 68% of incidents result in an arrest, not too bad! But is a cannabis offender really more dangerous to society than a murderer? The badges only make an arrest in 24% of murders. They make an arrest in 22% of kidnapping incidents. They make an arrest in @24% of sexual assault incidents. They make an arrest in 40% of major assault incidents, and the (attached) list goes on! The popo need to refocus their resources on the real criminals. One last stat to make your hair stand on end, Michigan has over 2,000 missing parolees who committed 34 murders last year. Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue of the MSP has failed the citizens of this State with the blessing of people like Senator Jones. Please contact her at (517) 332-2521 and let her know you are not pleased with the direction of law enforcement. http://cheboygannorml.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/CrimesAtAGlance_391376_7.pdf
Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.
I've been out of school two years because of the federal drug/financial aid laws. I was on track to graduate from a top tier liberal arts college with above a 3.0 before I was arrested for marijuana. Obviously, I'm behind this initiative and any effort to remove the federal guidelines that allow murderers, rapists and thieves to return to school after their sentencing but not non-violent marijuana offenders.
Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 7:06 p.m.
a.) So we are mandating, through the city charter, that they spend less time on drug arrests. How does this work? And are we going to train cops on how to eyeball and ounce of pot? If this does pass, it is purely a symbolic victory and may actually prove to more of a hinderance to police than a help. b.) It is a federal law that prohibits drug offenders from getting financial aid (I filled out a lot of FAFSA's and looked it up) and it is only for a year for possession and two for intent to sell....unless you have three offenses or are arrested for both. You also could have gone through a drug therapy program and got it reduced as well. You should have been able to go back this year if your arrest was two years ago and it was for first time possession. I am all for full legalization, but this is nothing more than a wasted spot on the November ballot.
Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 6:25 p.m.
you act as if you didn't know the rules of the Taxpayer money you accepted? sorry, nothing's free in life.
Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.
I guess you should have not got caught.I'm totally for legalizing pot BUT I never let myself get busted.( I don't smoke it anymore though )
Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.
Really? We can just get petitions to tell our police force which laws we want them to enforce? Holy Smokes! I say we target parking and speeding next!
Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.
It's called democracy. I understand your confusion since you're an SEC fan.
Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.
Hello, I just spoke with City Clerk Frances McMullen and she corrected previous information that was given to me. McMullen said 700 signatures, 5 percent of the city's registered voters, were required.
Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.
Excellent. The War on Drugs is a total failure, and many thoughtful individuals have come to the realization that it is time to legalize marijuana. Unfortunately, the Army of Public Service Workers (police) who have piggybacked on this war to beef up their budgets and payrolls will not allow us to give up so easily. Just as in 1984, "We have always been at war with marijuana," and we will always be at war with it.
Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.
AnnArbor.com, there is a small error in the story. The petitioners seek to amend the city charter, not to initiate an ordinance. City charter amendments are governed by state law and not the city charter in question. Michigan Compiled Laws 117.25(1) says a petition to amend a city charter must garner the signatures of 5% of the registered voters in the city. That is the requirement that these petitioners met. If they had sought to initiate an ordinance, then the requirement of 20% of the votes cast for mayor would have governed.
Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.
13th paragraph, last sentence "....possession of less than once of cannabis..." Should be one ounce. Great article, I enjoyed reading it and did not know this movement was even happening.
Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.
HB11, Thanks for pointing that out. It has been corrected. Thanks for reading!
Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 12:02 p.m.
Well you better find a cashcow to replace the one you're asking them to get rid of...... Oh wait did I just say minor marijuana enforcement is a budgetary concern.........