LEGAL NEWS PHOTOS BY CYNTHIA PRICE
by Cynthia Price
A current and a former mayor, a state representative, and a city commissioner gathered last Friday at the historic Calkins Law Office building to express support of the DecriminalizeGR (DCGR) ballot question that would make possession of marijuana a civil infraction rather than a misdemeanor.
Supporters, including the “celebrities” participating in the press conference, emphasize three strong reasons for its passage: one, avoidance of people carrying a lifetime criminal record for the indiscretion of using marijuana; two, the time spent by law enforcement and the courts to prosecute marijuana use could be better used pursuing what are perceived as more dangerous crimes; and three is related: all of that costs a lot of money — DCGR estimates at least $2.5 million in Grand Rapids — that financially-challenged cities do not have.
Mayor George Heartwell said the proposal’s passage would allow the City of Grand Rapids to use its revenues more efficiently, and focus on positive work toward sustainability of city government.
Former Mayor John Logie, now Of Counsel at Warner Norcross and Judd, said that he has been concerned about the policies criminalizing marijuana when he made it, along with a proposal for the needle exchange program still in existence, a centerpiece of his first State of the City address in 1997.
Logie also touched on the history of the substance’s criminalization, stating that he feels we are “using the wrong tools the wrong way” to address drug use and abuse.
State Representative Brandon Dillon called it a “commonsense proposal,” and Commissioner Ruth Kelly said that she would like to see the effort currently put toward marijuana criminal enforcement go to social services and other measures to help people, especially youth, avoid using drugs. She said that Commissioners Rosalynn Bliss and James White also support the proposal.
Michael Tuffelmire, DCGR Campaign Director, added, “This is important for my hometown of Grand Rapids, because it will save taxpayer dollars and keep our youth out of jail.”
Others pointed out that Ann Arbor decriminalized marijuana 40 years ago with no appreciable negative consequences.
Since the press conference, Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk has come out in opposition to the proposal. An online poll (by the River 100.5 radio station) currently shows that 73% favor decriminalization versus 27% opposed.
For more information visit http://decriminalizegr.org/
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