Decriminalization Charter – City of Grand Rapids
Michigan in recent years has become a marijuana friendly state, or so it seems. There have been numerous cities, municipalities, and towns that have passed local laws decriminalizing or legalizing the use and possession of recreational marijuana. These laws are separate and apart from those controlling the use, possession and delivery of medical marihuana here in the state. The City of Grand Rapids, through an amendment of its City Charter, has decriminalized marijuana throughout the city, creating a decriminalization charter.
Shortly after the amendment became effective, and officially modified the city charter, the Kent County Prosecutor filed a suit against the city in an attempt to stop the use and enforcement of the new decriminalization charter found with Grand Rapids. The prosecutor’s main argument regarding the decriminalization charter involved state preemption, meaning that a city could not create a law that would directly conflict with an overriding state law. The change in the city charter was very similar to that language used within the City of Ann Arbor, which has decriminalized marijuana for over twenty years.
The prosecutor lost at the Circuit Court level, and then filed an appeal. That appeal eventually create a ruling by the Court of Appeals, which brought about an unpublished written opinion. The opinion by the Court of Appeals was very straight forwarded and outlined the numerous arguments presented by the Kent County Prosecutor. The Court ultimately held that the amendment to the city charter was not unconstitutional nor did it conflict with preexisting state law. The new decriminalization charter did not stop, hinder, or otherwise interfere with the enforcement of the state law criminalizing marijuana. The court further noted that if the amendment would have been a new ordinance rather than modifying the city charter then the outcome of the case could have ended differently. It also explained that the decriminalization charter does not prohibit a local city officer from enforcing state law, but rather provides for discretion when performing his or her duties and whether the duties will involve enforcing state law.
What the Court of Appeals’ opinion does for those in the City of Grand Rapids is allow them to “have power to adopt resolutions and ordinances relating to its municipal concerns, property and government, subject to the constitution and law.” Preemption will only occur when there is a direct conflict between local and state law; however, and again, the charter does not make the state law ineffective or hindered in any way. State law enforcement are able to enforce, just as they did prior to decriminalization charter, state law as it is written. This means that at the state level and when confronted by a non-City police officer, within the City of Grand Rapids, an individual can and will still be charged for the illegal possession of marijuana, unless other circumstances and defenses apply. But in the end, when an individual is found within the City of Grand Rapids with marijuana they can be charged with a civil infraction rather than a criminal misdemeanor.
Remember, these situations require certain acts within certain areas, and this is still true even though the City of Grand Rapids has decriminalized marijuana within its borders. Only Grand Rapids City officers will be enforcing this amendment and new decriminalization charter. If you are interested in understanding the limitations and possible consequences with marijuana inside Cities or Towns with decriminalized law, please refer to the explanation and article on Marijuana Decriminalization. Josh Jones available 7-days a week, and he handles all criminal matters (felonies and misdemeanors) and specialized in marijuana defense.
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