Update 11/06/2013: Voters in Lansing, Jackson and Ferndale, Michigan all legalized the possession and use of up to an ounce of cannabis on private property yesterday. Jackson voters passed their measure by more than 800 votes, and roughly 63 percent of Lansing voters approved their measure.
Supporters say the move will force the legislature to approve a similar statewide measure during the upcoming legislative session.
Original story, 11/5/2013: Citizens in Lansing, Jackson and Ferndale, Michigan today will have the option of legalizing up to an ounce of cannabis for personal use for adults over the age of 21. The rules don't include possession on public property, and would only apply to possession on private property.
The bills would also not legalize cultivation of cannabis.
But that's not really the goal, apparently. Supporters say that if all three cities pass the bills it would force the state legislature to act on statewide decriminalization. Marijuana possession of under an ounce remains a misdemeanor charge with up to a year in jail and $2,000 in fines. Possession in a park could net you felony charges and up to $2,000 in fines.
"This is going to send a message to the Legislature that people really want change," Tim Beck of Detroit told MLive.com. "The best poll you're ever going to find is an election."
There is currently a bill in Michigan's legislature that would decrease the penalty for possession up to an ounce to a civil infraction on par with a traffic ticket. The bill, introduced last April, has bipartisan support but has yet to be moved on with any action. State Rep. Jeff Irwin says his fellow lawmakers need to step up to the plate.
"Despite the fact that we're spending a minimum of $325 million a year on arresting, trying and incarcerating marijuana users in this state, we know marijuana has never been more available," Irwin said at the April press conference announcing the bill, according to MLive. "We know that law enforcement has not been successful at keeping marijuana out of the hands of anyone in this state."
Most of the population agrees. Polls released last week show that 47 percent are in favor of taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol. Only 26 percent feel that marijuana should remain illegal at the level it is at currently.
"We hope these are the last ones we have to do," Beck said of the local proposals. "We hope between now and the end of the session that we will have decriminalization like 17 other states. This is nothing radical."