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The Sound of Inevitability: Michigan’s latest political wrap-up

One
of my favorite lines from The Matrix
was delivered by the chillingly robotic Agent Smith when he said to Neo, “You
hear that Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability. It is the sound

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ne
of my favorite lines from The Matrix
was delivered by the chillingly robotic Agent Smith when he said to Neo, “You
hear that Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability. It is the sound of
your death . . .”

That
seems to be what is happening here in Michigan, one community at a time, as the
will of the people continues to roll forward toward the legalization of
cannabis as a stubbornly conservative Michigan Legislature’s persistent
struggles to hold back the tide seem to be weakening as they hear the
approaching sound of that inevitability coming down the tracks.

According
to The Huffington Post, there were
more drug policy reform questions on the November 2014 ballot across the country
than at any time in history. Similar to the question of gay marriage, the
nationwide change in attitude and approach toward cannabis possession, use and
legalization has been evident for some time. That change was reflected in a big
way in Michigan this year, beginning in the August primary election where
activists from organizations such as the Safer Michigan Coalition have been
organizing their forces to promote more reasonable cannabis legislation.
According to the organization, “Cannabis law reform won on the ballot in Hazel
Park in the August primary with 63 percent in favor, and in Oak Park with 53
percent. Oak Park was too close for comfort, but so many people had told us we
were going to lose.”

On
Election Day an additional six cities (Berkley, Huntington Woods, Mt. Pleasant,
Pleasant Ridge, Port Huron, Saginaw) added themselves to that number, which
adds up to a grand total of eight Michigan cities this year alone that are
supporting the decriminalization of cannabis. Additionally there are two
pro-reform bills that actually seem to be making progress through the Michigan
legislature and are expected to pass into law before the end of November. The
bills, currently before the Senate Government Operation Committee, include
Representative Mike Callton’s HB-4271, which would allow city-regulated
dispensaries, and Representative Eileen Kowall’s HB-5104, which would protect
patients’ use of edibles and extracts.

This
is all a noteworthy improvement from just a year ago when two promising pieces
of pro-reform cannabis decriminalization legislation put forth by Detroit’s
Senator Coleman Alexander Young II and several colleagues from the Michigan
House (SB-626 and HB-4623) were seemingly put on indefinite hold. No action was
taken on either bill by the Judiciary Committee in 2013.

Even
as the majority of voters in cities like Detroit and Ferndale have expressed
their desire to go easy on the weed at the polls, and polls show a noticeable
majority of Michigan voters are in favor of decriminalization, their wishes
have been placed in a murky state of limbo since the State of Michigan still
treats cannabis possession as a crime. Even some of the municipalities where
laws were passed to decriminalize cannabis (like Ferndale and Detroit) have
continued to prosecute in blatant violation of what their own citizens said
loud and clear at the ballot box. Michigan law states that possession of any
amount of cannabis is considered a misdemeanor which can result in a sentence
of one year behind bars and a maximum fine of $2,000. Use of cannabis is also a
misdemeanor that can result in a maximum sentence of 90 days imprisonment and a
maximum fine of $100.

If
HB-4271 and HB-5104 continue to move forward, then I suspect that may crack the
door open enough to where there is a decent chance for another more successful
run at Senator Young’s proposed legislation from last year, which focuses on
significantly lessening the penalties for the possession of small amounts of
cannabis in the State of Michigan.

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The
sound of inevitability . . .

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