Michigan decriminalization bill submitted


Michigan Rep. Jeff Irwin.

Michigan lawmakers will (maybe) consider a bill decriminalizing up to an ounce of marijuana this session.
Rep. Jeff Irwin, a Democrat from Ann Arbor, introduced HB 4623 yesterday along with a bipartisan group of cosponsors. Though the bill has been read once and assigned to committee, it faces waiting on a long list of other bills and a potentially intolerant committee.

House Bill 4623 would amend the current drug cod with language that makes an ounce of “marihuana” a civil infraction. If busted, you’d face a fine no higher than $25 so long as it is your first time. If it’s your second time, you can be fined up to $50, but no less than $25. If it’s your third (or more) time getting popped with herb, you can be fined up to $100.
Irwin represents part of Ann Arbor, Mich., which enacted similar decriminalization laws on marijuana decades ago.
“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. We know that law enforcement has not been successful at keeping marijuana out of the hands of anyone in this state,” Irwin said at a press conference Wednesday.
The bill’s co-sponsor, Republican Rep. Mike Shirkey framed the issue as a matter of creating a less-intrusive government: “We’re using a lot of money, energy and resources in Michigan and across the nation to accomplish something we’ve failed at. If government has a primary role, it is to protect people’s freedom. That doesn’t mean we have unfettered freedom … but the best government, by and large, is a smaller, less restraining government.”

Michigan state capitol.

“This is the right time to have this debate in Michigan,” Shirkey said.
The bill was introduced yesterday, read for a first time then sent over to the state Judiciary Committee. Judging by their laundry list of bills to run through, it might be a while.That, and other lawmakers – including Republican co-sponsors – say the bill probably won’t have top priority before the Republican-controlled committee.
“It will go through the committee process, but we’re not going to close the door on having the discussion,” state Republican spokesman Ari Adler told MLive.com. “There are a lot of important issues that we have to deal with first.”
It might not be important to Ari Adler, but it’s probably important to the people getting locked up for a pocket of ganja in your state. Just five years ago in 2007, the state was arresting 19,691 people for marijuana offenses – with possession arrests accounting for 84 percent of those people.
Currently, possession of any amount in Michigan is a misdemeanor with up to a year in jail and $2,000 in fines. If you’re in a park, you could be facing a felony with up to two years and $2,000 in fines. Even the use of marijuana is punishable by a misdemeanor with up to 90 days and a $100 fine – the same for paraphernalia (which HB 4623 does not address).