LPD: Enforcing Small Amounts of Marijuana 'Not Our Priority'
Despite voters overwhelmingly passing a proposal to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana it won't change much of anything when it comes to police enforcement.
Now that Lansing voters have overwhelmingly voted in favor of marijuana, does it actually mean anything?
The proposal approved Tuesday makes small amounts of marijuana exempt from city ordinances. It changes the city charter so ordinances don't apply to the possession, use, or transfer of less than one ounce of the drug by a person 21 years or older on private property.
"It's a landslide victory and I think it indicates to everyone that this is a popular issue," said Jeffrey Hank, an attorney in Lansing who spearheaded the ballot initiative with the Coalition for a Safer Lansing.
The Capitol City is just the latest in a growing list of Michigan cities--including Jackson and Ferndale--approving marijuana decriminalization.
There are now 14 Michigan cities in total including Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor that have decriminalized marijuana.
"This now begins the conversation in a much more serious tone that overwhelming majorities of Michigan citizens support cannabis prohibition being repealed," Hank said.
But even with more than 60 percent of Lansing voters approving such a measure it doesn't make the drug legal.
Captain Daryl Green with the Lansing Police Department said the approval of the charter amendment doesn't mean big changes will be coming when it comes to enforcement.
"This was a symbolic change," Green said. "But obviously we're not going to be dismissive about the people's attitudes that they're changing and they're being more tolerant to marijuana use."
Captain Green said enforcement of small amounts of pot--like what was stipulated in the proposal--have never been a high priority for the force.
Even so, getting caught or stopped with an ounce or less of marijuana by police doesn't mean an individual would be in the clear.
"It still can be an issue and each situation is going to be weighed based on a variety of different variables," Green said.
"We're not going to say that we're never going to enforce our state laws or federal laws however this is not our priority at the Lansing Police Department."
But advocates like Hank say they're still hopeful the voice of the voters will be respected.
"We hope that it's more than just symbolic and not only Lansing police but police officers everywhere come to the conclusion that they are enforcing a law that the people don't want," he said.