Grand Rapids Marijuana Charter Amendment Explained
Grand Rapids Michigan Decriminalizes Marijuana.
BTW It takes a lot of time to provide common sense analysis of this type. We provide it to you free, all we ask is that you keep us in mind should you need a personal injury lawyer, a marijuana lawyer, a Grand Rapids criminal defense lawyer or a litigation lawyer to help you with a car accident, a lawsuit, a criminal charge, or legal issue.
You may wish to visit our Marijuana Trivia and Why Marijuana Became Illegal webpages, as each is informative. When the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act passed in 2008 we asked: "Why did the federal government outlaw cannabis in 1937?" Surely such an important decision was the result of lengthy debate and supported by competent medical research – right? Surprise. Click the page links above to read the unusual – but true – history of the natural plant and leafy substance that used to be commonly known in this country and elsewhere as "cannabis."
Grand Rapids Michigan Decriminalizes Possession and Use of Marijuana.
December 2015. The Michigan Supreme Court let stand a court of appeals opinion which ruled that the Grand Rapids city charter marijuana amendment does not contradict state law. This decision means the Grand Rapids decriminalization ordinance is constitutionally valid and will remain the law.
Voters of the City of Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan voted overwhelmingly (58%) to enact a Charter Amendment that decriminalizes the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana within city limits. The Grand Rapids Ordinance goes a step farther than the state medical marijuana law, and allows for the recreational use of marijuana. The Charter Amendment was patterned after similar laws passed in the 1970's by voters in the University of Michigan college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Marijuana remains illegal to use and possess in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Flint, and elsewhere. However, the civil penalty for the non-criminal violation (similar to a parking ticket) is a monetary fine. The fine was $5 for two ounces or less in 1972 when Ann Arbor passed the most radically lenient marijuana law in the United States. For more on the history of Ann Arbor's recreational marijuana ordinance you can read about it on Wikipedia.
Broad Medical Use Defense.
The Grand Rapids Marijuana Ordinance allows a broad 'medical use' defense that far surpasses the defense recognized under state law. Most controversial, the Amendment does not require that the marijuana be possessed or used for medical purposes. This means that although state law strictly prohibits possession and use of marijuana except for limited medical reasons, a person busted in Grand Rapids for non-medical possession or use of marijuana will be punished by a $25 fine (this assumes, of course, the possession/use occurred within City limits and the person is busted by a Grand Rapids City cop). An unregistered medical marijuana patient can ask the court to waive the fine if the person has a medical purpose or reason for using or possessing the marijuana.
The City of Grand Rapids has joined Ann Arbor, Detroit, Flint, and the states of Colorado, Washington, and many others by making the recreational use of marijuana a non-criminal activity under city law. This has the net effect of decriminalizing the recreational use and possession of small amounts of marijuana within city limits, as most marijuana busts and arrests in the city are made by city police officers.
We hasten to remind any over-zealous reefers that possession, sale, and use of marijuana, if not in Grand Rapids or if not for medical reasons under state law, are serious crimes. Federal law does not recognize any medical marijuana laws. People are still being sent to jail for marijuana crimes.
A word to the wise: Don't SMOKE and DRIVE.
Driving and the Grand Rapids Charter Amendment.
Studies suggest that it takes active THC several hours to get out of your body. The Grand Rapids City Ordinance does not protect you from being charged with operating while impaired by illegal drugs (OUID), also known as 'drugged' driving. If you are going to violate numerous state and federal anti-marijuana laws, the least you can do is use a designated driver. Drugged driving is treated the same as drunk driving. A drugged driving conviction costs about $3,000 in fines and costs, not to mention criminal defense lawyer fees, driver's license sanctions, and skyrocketing car insurance rates.
In 2013, the Michigan Supreme Court abolished the zero tolerance active THC rule for medical marijuana patients. The drugged driving law requires the state prosecutor show that THC actually impaired the patient's ability to safely drive. However this ruling only applies to patients registered with the state or who qualify under Section 8 of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. The Michigan courts have repeatedly characterized the Medical Marihuana Act as a "narrow exception" to criminal laws. If you are not a medical marijuana patient, the drugged driving standard for you is zero tolerance.
Analysis of Grand Rapids' Marijuana Charter Amendment.
The wording of the Amendment is straight forward:
Section (a) contains the standard definition of "marijuana" as used throughout the Michigan Penal Code. A person is prohibited from possessing, controlling, using, or giving away marijuana (cannabis).
Section (b) makes possession, control, use, or giving away marijuana a civil infraction that is punishable by a $25 fine. A civil infraction is similar to a parking ticket. It is not a criminal offense, and is punishable only by monetary fine. Subsequent violations are $50 for a second ticket; and $100 for a third or additional violation. Jail, incarceration, probation, or rehabilitation are expressly prohibited. Fines and costs are waived if the violator has a medical recommendation from a doctor, medical practitioner, or a qualified health professional. A court can waive the fine if a person successfully demonstrates an affirmative defense of medical use, by showing that marijuana helps, restores, and/or relieves their pain or discomfort.
Section (c) provides that violators will be given infraction tickets much like a speeding or parking ticket.
Section (d) prohibits a Grand Rapids police officer from filing a complaint to anyone but the Grand Rapids City Attorney's Office. The Grand Rapids City Attorney's office is likewise prohibited from referring marijuana violations to the state prosecutor, federal government, or attorney general's office.
Section (e) seems to duplicate section (d) and its prohibitions against referring any marijuana case to an outside authority.
Section (f) makes this Ordinance null and void if the state should legalize marijuana (which may happen at the ballot box in Nov 2018).
Section (g) lists the reasons why this Ordinance was passed.
Questions about Grand Rapids' Marijuana Ordinance.
The marijuana ordinance did not replace or nullify existing laws. Previous to this marijuana ordinance, Grand Rapids did not have a law that criminalized possession or use of marijuana. For years Grand Rapids police officers wrote marijuana tickets and citations using state law. The City of Grand Rapids now outlaws the use and possession of marijuana – but then mandates a token civil fine for violating the law.
The Grand Rapids marijuana ordinance makes no mention as to the minimum age of the person who may possess, control, use or give away marijuana. Presumably, the person must be at least 18 years of age. The Amendment also does not set an amount. Grand Rapids officials have said they will refer marijuana cases to the state prosecutor's office that exceed the 2.5 ounces or 12 plants per patient amounts contained in the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.
Grand Rapids' City Charter Amendment will NOT Protect you from State or County Cops.
So, what happens if a state police officer or sheriff's deputy busts someone inside city limits for smoking a marijuana joint? The state police officer or sheriff's deputy can choose to either cite the person using the Grand Rapids civil infraction or the state's one-year misdemeanor law. To be clear, only Grand Rapids police officers are mandated to write violators for the civil infraction. However, it is hoped that enlightened county and state police officers will choose to use the civil infraction instead of the Draconian state criminal laws.
Fall 2017 Update. Since passage of the Grand Rapids Charter Amendment, state and county police officers are still choosing to write marijuana criminal charges using the state's possession and use of marijuana laws, even though the person was inside Grand Rapids City limits. These officers have the discretion to use the Grand Rapids Ordinance OR the state laws, and are either choosing or have been instructed to use the state criminal laws.
Real Case Study.
Our office represented a person who was smoking weed while riding his bicycle inside Grand Rapids' city limits. The person thought they would be protected from prosecution since: (a) they were not driving a car, and (b) they were inside the City of Grand Rapids. The bicyclist had the misfortune of riding his bike right by a sheriff's deputy who was in plainclothes investigating a drug case. The sheriff deputy smelled the marijuana odor, hopped in his unmarked patrol car, and stopped the bicyclist. The sheriff deputy chose to charge the person with possession of marijuana under state law – not the Grand Rapids civil infraction ordinance. We have seen this same result in other cases where state police have stopped drivers and charged them under state law instead of the Grand Rapids' civil infraction. Noteworthy, is that almost without exception, every single person caught within city limits and charged under state law by state or county police officers has been a passenger or a driver of a car.
NOTE: We remind our readers that the feds outlaw any possession or use of any amount of marijuana anytime, anywhere, for any reason.
Full Text of the Grand Rapids City Marijuana Ordinance.
A proposal to amend the Grand Rapids City Charter, Title XVIII Miscellaneous Provisions;by adding Section 296; Restrictions of Marijuana as follows:
(a) No person shall possess, control, use, or give away marijuana or cannabis, which is defined as all parts of the plant Cannabis Sativa L., whether growing or not; its seeds or resin; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the above, unless such possession, control, or use is pursuant to a license or prescription as provided in Public Act 196 of 1971, as amended. This definition does not include the mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, any other compounds, manufacture, sale, derivative, mixture or preparation of the mature stalks, except the resin extracted therefrom, fiber, oil or cake, or the sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination.
(b) Violations of this section shall be civil infractions. Persons convicted of violating this section shall be fined $25.00 for the first offense, $50.00 for the second offense, $100.00 for the third or subsequent offense and no incarceration, probation, nor any other punitive or rehabilitative measure shall be imposed. Fines and all other costs shall be waived upon proof that the defendant is recommended by a physician, practitioner or other qualified health professional to use or provide the marijuana or cannabis for medical treatment. The court may waive all or part of the fine upon proof that the defendant attended a substance abuse program. It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under this section that the use or intended use of the marijuana or cannabis relieves, or has the potential to relieve, the pain, disability, discomfort or other adverse symptoms of illness or medical treatment, or restores, maintains or improves, or has the potential to restore, maintain or improve, the health or medical quality of life of the user or intended user or users of the marijuana or cannabis. Requirements of this subjection shall not be construed to exclude the assertion of other defenses.
(c) In all arrests and prosecutions for violations of this section, appearance tickets and the relevant procedures set forth in Michigan Public Act 147 of 1968, as amended, shall be used.
(d) No Grand Rapids police officer, or his or her agent, shall complain of the possession, control, use, or giving away of marijuana or cannabis to any other authority except the Grand Rapids City Attorney; and the City Attorney shall not refer any said complaint to any other authority for prosecution.
(e) No Grand Rapids police officer, or his or her agent, shall complain and the City Attorney shall not refer for prosecution any complaint, of the possession, control, use, giving away, or cultivation of marijuana or cannabis upon proof that the defendant is recommended by a physician, practitioner or other qualified health professional to use or provide the marijuana or cannabis for medical treatment.
(f) Should the State of Michigan enact lesser penalties than that set forth in subsection (b) above, or entirely repeal penalties for the possession, control, use, or giving away of marijuana or cannabis, then this section, or the relevant portions thereof, shall be null and void.
(g) The people of the City of Grand Rapids specifically determine that the provisions herein contained concerning marijuana or cannabis are necessary to serve the local purposes of providing just and equitable legal treatment of the citizens of this community, and in particular of the youth of this community present as college students or otherwise; and to provide for the public peace and safety by preserving the respect of such citizens for the law and law enforcement agencies of the City.
Attorney Bruce Alan Block is a Grand Rapids, Michigan criminal marijuana defense lawyer. He has successfully handled cases where clients were accused of possession of marijuana, manufacture, delivery, possession with intent to deliver marijuana, maintaining a drug house, improper transport of medical marijuana, and similar offenses. If you are accused of a marijuana crime, put his years of experience to work for you. Call (616) 676-8770.
If you or a family member has been charged with or accused of a crime, you need immediate advice from an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Contact our Grand Rapids, Michigan, marijuana criminal defense lawyer at (616) 676-8770.
Bruce Alan Block, PLC
Attorney and Counselor at Law
1155 East Paris Ave. SE, Suite 300, Grand Rapids, MI 49546
Phone: (616) 676-8770
Serving Clients throughout Western Michigan, in Grand Rapids, Ada, East Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Cascade, Wyoming, Byron Center, Forest Hills, Lowell, Caledonia, Cascade, Rockford, Holland, Grand Haven, Hastings, Hudsonville, Grandville, Kent County, Barry County, Ottawa County, Newaygo County, Muskegon County, Allegan County, Ionia County.
We represent college students from Calvin College, Aquinas, Grand Valley State University, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids Community College, Michigan State University, Central University. Ferris State University, University of Michigan, and Western Michigan University.
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