SUNDAY, AUGUST 29, 1971
Pot Law Penalties Still Depend on Geography
Ann Arbor has a city ordinance under which possession of small amounts of marijuana is classified as a misdemeanor, but prosecutions continue to be brought under the state laws which makes a marijuana offense a felony.
Some city officials are unhappy at this state of affairs. The Police Department and the county prosecutor's office are not, because they believe the city and state laws should be in conformance. The laws might be in agreement if it were lot tor the fact that state legislation reducing minor marijuana offences to a misdemeanor is one of the bills put on the back burner while the Legislature argues endlessly over appropriations.
If anyone thinks Ann Arbor's situation is peculiar; however, he should take a look at our sister university town to the northwest, East Lansing.
East Lansing's City Council took similar action to Ann Arbor's last spring, modifying the law so that marijuana violations would be treated as misdemeanors, with the penalty a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail. On Michigan State University property, however, the same violation is a felony and can bring penalties up to $5,000 and/or 20 years in prison.
MSU's Board of Trustees hasn't done anything about drug law reform, and in the absence of any action state law applies on the campus.
While Michigan waits for the Legislature to do something about the governor 's recommendation to reduce the penalty for marijuana possession, John Sinclair continues to serve his long sentence and judges are lenient with first and minor offenders because they know the penalties are severely out of line. That isn't the way to run a railroad, however. It is not fair to police and judges to ask them to recognize the manifest injustice of a law and act accordingly. It is the duty of the Legislature to make the penalties of the law fit the crime and not take forever to do it.