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Monday, August 5,2013

Pot petitions are in

Charter amendment to legalize possession, use and transfer of small amounts of marijuana could be on November ballots

by Andy Balaskovitz
City Clerk Chris Swope, left, receives a stack of petitions from Jeffrey Hank (right), who is leading a campaign to let voters decide in November whether to legalize less than an ounce of marijuana in Lansing. Andy Balaskovitz/City Pulse

Monday, Aug. 5 — Organizers of a campaign to legalize the possession, use and transfer of less than an ounce of marijuana on private property in Lansing turned in over 6,000 signatures to the City Clerk’s Office today in an effort to let city voters decide on the new law in November.


City Clerk Chris Swope said he has 45 days to verify whether the group has the required number of signatures to get the question on November ballots. At least 5 percent of registered voters in Lansing must be represented for the petitions to be validated, which would be about 4,200 signatures.


The law would apply to those at least 21 years old and on private property.


Attorney Jeffrey Hank, who’s leading the Coalition for a Safer Lansing, said the goal of legalizing small amounts of marijuana — rather than decriminalize it, which would involve a civil infraction ticket — was so there would be no punishment for those “exercising their fundamental rights.”


“We want peace and freedom,” Hank said today. He also hopes the effort is a jumpstart to enact a similar policy at the state level and will “free up police resources.”


Hank believes that the ballot language, which includes the “transfer” of marijuana, would also include person-to-person sales of less than an ounce. “I would say it allows two consenting adults to transfer,” which could “include the exchange of money.”


If voters approve the charter amendment, Lansing would join Detroit and Flint in legalizing up to an ounce of marijuana on private property. Grand Rapids voters amended their City Charter in November to decriminalize marijuana, making possession punishable by fine. Also in November, Ypsilanti voters amended their City Charter to make marijuana possession for those 21 and older the lowest law enforcement priority.


The Detroit Free Press reported last week that organizers in Ferndale and Jackson plan to turn in petition signatures Tuesday to get decriminalization proposals on ballots in those cities in November. That group is also affiliated with the effort in Lansing.

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