Monday, July 29, 2013

Ferndale to Vote on Full Marijuana Decriminalization ?

Ferndale…It’s Way Past Time....End Marijuana Prohibition

The upcoming municipal elections in Ferndale may well have an added bit of excitement this November if the petitions turned in to our City Clerk are validated. Volunteers from Compassionate Ferndale are planning to turn over nearly 600 signatures this week with language for a ballot issue that would call of the City of Ferndale in fully decriminalize up to one ounce of marijuana for all adults 21 years of age and older on private property. Marijuana would still be illegal under federal laws.

Voters have already taken this step in five other Michigan cities, including Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Traverse City, Flint, and Detroit. Ferndale can be next. It’s one more move toward a sane approach to the reefer madness that has gripped some politicians and law enforcement for decades.

The 43 year-old “War on Drugs” has failed miserably. I call again, along with many other respected community leaders and health and legal experts, for the full decriminalization of marijuana, and an end to marijuana policies that rely on law enforcement, prosecution, criminal penalties, and incarceration for users and in its place new models of regulation, taxation, education, and addiction treatment.

That the war on marijuana has failed is almost universally accepted. Beginning in 1937, and accelerated by President Nixon in 1970, the U.S. criminalization of marijuana has resulted in hundreds of thousands of persons arrested, prosecuted, and jailed, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars. For that money, we have seen the creation of huge underground economies that are neither taxed nor regulated. We have spent precious resources on prisons, lawyers, and law enforcement that focus on drug use instead of burglaries, larceny, rape and other violent crime. Meanwhile resources for drug and addiction treatment are reduced, while grandmothers are arrested for baking brownies.

Marijuana has been decriminalized in many places across the globe, including nations in Europe, and in two states and certain cities here in the US. The results show no increase in crime, addiction, or use. Everywhere medical marijuana issues are put on the ballot, voters pass them in overwhelming numbers. Yet some reactionary segments of society, particularly in law enforcement, continue to follow failed policies of prohibition.

In Ferndale, MI, voters have voted for legalization of medical marijuana three times. Each time they voted the percentage of voters saying yes increased, until finally during the state referendum 4 years ago Ferndale residents voted 3 to 1 in favor of decriminalization. As a Councilman and then Mayor in Ferndale, I came out in support of these efforts, against the advice of advisors and other politicians. As mayor, I worked for a year with City Council devising zoning rules, developing policies, drafting legal legislation and planning for medical marijuana to come to Ferndale, following the wishes of our residents and the people of Michigan. Our police chief was on board, the city council and city staff were together; we set up policies to regulate dispensaries in our city. We opened one with great fanfare, and it was toured by mayors, council members, and police officials from several neighboring cities. There were no problems, complaints or issues of any kind during the two months Clinical Relief was open, that is until the day the Sheriff and his strike force came to town with helicopters, bullet proof vests, automatic weapons, and dogs.

Marijuana is one of those issues that many politicians are frightened of. Most know the current system is unfair, illogical, unwise, expensive, and doomed to failure. They also will refuse to take any corrective action. Three of our recent Presidents have admitted to using marijuana, but the denial and silence by politicians is still the rule.

Progress is slow, but Ferndale may get its chance to weigh in on the issue in just a few short months. For those of us who want law enforcement to focus on true crime that affects our citizens and to empty the prisons of pot smokers, it is worth the ten minutes it will take to vote on November 5th.

As you vote, remember the astronomical taxpayer costs of prohibition from arrests, enforcement, prosecutions and imprisonment. Then think of the funds that would become available for schools, public safety, and roads with marijuana regulation and taxation.

In this age of growing austerity, we can no longer afford to pay for the failed war on cannabis. Ferndale voters will send such a message this Fall.


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