East Lansing city council votes to decriminalize small uses of marijuana

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – If you travel through East Lansing, you might not notice that the city has undergone a big change. It’s not a new building or a new traffic light…it’s a new amendment to the city ordinance that decriminalizes small uses of marijuana.

The movement started last May when 65% of East Lansing residents voted to change the city charter to decriminalize the use of less than 1-ounce of the drug on private property.

On Tuesday night, the city council voted in favor of a two-fold amendment to make sure the city ordinance matched the charter. That amendment states residents 21 and older can possess, use or transfer less than 1-ounce of marijuana on private property.

It also says those under the age of 21 who are caught possessing, using, or transferring less than1-ounce of marijuana on private property are subject to a civil infraction which is punishable by fine, community service, or a required substance abuse course.

State law says the use or possession of recreational marijuana is a crime and can lead to time behind bars so in a sense, people can legally break state law in the city of East Lansing.

Now the possession and use of marijuana has been a hot topic in the state of Michigan and now that the city of East Lansing’s ordinance has changed, the question is…is the clash between state and city law a big deal?

“In terms of there being some sort of a fight between the state of Michigan and local units of government in the state where marijuana is either legalized or decriminalized, I don’t see that so much as an issue,” said East Lansing Criminal Attorney Mike Nichols.

Nichols believes the ordinance is a way for the city to take a step forward towards the growing acceptance of recreational marijuana use.

“We’ve now sent a strong message by legalizing certain situations where the use is small enough, the person is over 21 and we’re not going to give that person a criminal charge,” Nichols stated.

However, 6 News spoke to City of East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows and he says while he understands that the clash between state and city law may be an issue, his city has followed the footsteps of several states that went against federal law and legalized recreational marijuana.

“The states have taken the position that they have a right to I guess dictate their own or determine their own laws and so the city has taken that same position,” said Meadows.

As far as how police will enforce the new law, well, Mayor Meadows says law enforcement will follow the rules of the city’s new ordinance.

“If they do need to write tickets, they’ll be writing tickets that are civil infraction tickets and we’ll enforce them in our courts in the matter that we have done in the past,” Meadows stated.

In terms of the ordinance leading to increased drug use or violence of any kind, Mayor Meadows believes this will actually help decrease any aggressive activity and urges the people of East Lansing to have an open mind.

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