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Police To Enforce Pot Law

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Police To Enforce Pot Law

By Ron Cordray
(City Government Reporter)

One year ago Ann Arbor City Council enacted an ordinance reducing the charge for possession of marijuana from a felony to a misdemeanor.

At that time, Ann Arbor had one of the most liberal marijuana laws in the state.

Now, thanks to a decision of the Michigan Supreme Court, Ann Arbor has one of the most restrictive laws on marijuana in the state. The state Supreme Court last week ruled as unconstitutional the old state law making possession of marijuana a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The new state law which changes possession to a misdemeanor will not go into effect until April 1, therefore there is currently a big question about what state law covers marijuana.

Ann Arbor’s ordinance remains in effect, and City Administrator Guy C. Larcom Jr. said the Police Department will continue to enforce it.

Mayor Robert J. Harris said last night the Supreme Court’s decision and the council’s enactment of the ordinance “both rest on the fact that marijuana is not a narcotic and on the value judgment that it is wholly inappropriate to sentence a person to a decade in prison for the mere possession of a substance like marijuana, which is used by a part of the population in the same way that many other people use alcohol.”

Harris noted that the penalty under the new state law will be higher than under the city ordinance. The city ordinance contains a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail for possession of marijuana while the new state law will permit sentences up to a year.

"Accordingly, it seems appropriate to continue the city ordinance in effect,” Harris said, stating it has been suggested that council repeal its ordinance between now and April 1 and then re-enact it at that time. He said this suggestion is impractical because of the short time period between now and April 1.

"Questions about the legal status of Marijuana may appear trivial to older citizens who regard the drug as neither more nor less harmful than alcohol and who are personally not interested in using or experimenting with it,” Harris said. “However, the question is of burning importance to many young adults who use the drug despite its illegality.

"Their continued illegal use of it, together with their conviction that the older society has unfairly discriminated against their drug and in favor of alcohol alienates these young adults from all law enforcement personnel and from local government of which law enforcement is a part,” Harris said.

“The sooner we come to regulating marijuana — on the federal, state and local level — the same way we regulate alcohol, the sooner we will move to close some of the existing gap between generations and between young adults and the law,” the mayor said.

He said some law enforcement personnel wish to keep stiff marijuana laws on the books so these laws can be used to jail heroin sellers who cannot be convicted of that offense because of lack of evidence.

“We will pay too high a price in alienation of our own youth if we continue to keep stiff marijuana penalties for this reason.

“Nor should a free society go around creating catch-all crimes which it can convict people of whenever they are suspected of doing something else which cannot be proved,” Harris said.

Fifth Ward Councilman John McCormick said he has been contacted by a number of persons asking why John Sinclair was not arrested for smoking marijuana here while on a television program. He said citizens were concerned that the local police will not be enforcing the ordinance.

Larcom said for an arrest the use of marijuana would have to take place while an officer was present, adding there has been no change in the local departments’ enforcement of the ordinance.

Jerry DeGrieck, the Human Rights party candidate for council from the First Ward, spoke briefly to council last night, urging the city repeal its marijuana ordinance.


John Sinclair Puffing Away Before Cameras