Ohioans may have nixed their tainted marijuana legalization effort but Michigan cities keep on approving local legal marijuana proposals. Two Michigan cities said yes to ’local legal’ marijuana ballot initiatives in voting on Tuesday, November 3. In the last 11 years, cities around the state have approved cannabis law reform efforts in 25 different elections.
Voters in Keego Harbor, in conservative Oakland County, and Portage, a suburb of blue-collar Kalamazoo, both adopted local legal proposals that would remove criminal penalties for the possession, use, transfer and transportation of small amounts of marijuana. Portage voters chose cannabis law reform by a very slim margin- 51%-49%. They also approved two school bond issues by more favorable margins. Keego Harbor voters were more generous with their marijuana votes, approving the local legal proposal by a 55-45% margin, while soundly defeating a term limit proposal on the same ballot 62-38%.
The pro-school vote turned out in Portage, and the marijuana ballot proposal still won. City officials encouraged voters to participate in the Keego Harbor election, and cannabis law reform still won.
Portage is a community dotted by lakes just south of Kalamazoo. Keego Harbor is an inland city dotted by lakes just south of Pontiac. The two cities are 135 miles apart, but they share a common story of petition drives, government denials and eventual vindication.
The ’local legal’ proposals were placed on the two ballots through the petitioning process. Activists leaders in both cities submitted their completed petitions in 2014, but for administrative reasons in each city the proposals were not included in balloting that year.
Keego Harbor and Portage make the second and third cities to approve ‘local legal’ marijuana ballot initiatives this year. Voters in East Lansing, home of the Michigan State University, decisively approved their marijuana legalization proposal with a 65% YES vote earlier this year. The state capital city, Lansing, passed a nearly-identical proposal in 2013 by a 63% margin. A second marijuana vote was taken in 2015; tiny Montrose did not approve their local legal program during voting in an odd election where marijuana was the only issue on the ballot.
Michigan has a long history of enabling marijuana law reform on a local level (see accompanying graphic). Much like Lansing/East Lansing, Portage is neighbor to Kalamazoo, whose voters approved marijuana liberalization laws in both 2011 and 2013. Oakland County has seen positive votes for marijuana liberalization laws in Berkley, Oak Park, Hazel Park, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge and Huntington Woods dating back to 2005. Keego Harbor becomes the seventh city to liberalize pot laws in a county which is widely regarded as the harshest in the state on medical marijuana patients and businesses.
Nearly all of the successful petition drives have been initiated by or with the guidance of the Safer Michigan Coalition. Safer leader Chuck Ream has been recognized by national media for his activism and is also a prominent Board of Directors member of the MILegalize organization. MILegalize’s Chair, attorney Jeffrey Hank, led the East Lansing and Lansing local legal marijuana petition drives to their successful conclusions.
MILegalize is in the final months of a statewide campaign to legalize adult use of marijuana for those over 21 years of age, allow all adults the same cultivation privileges afforded to medical marijuana patients, and enable the hemp industry.
MORE FROM THE COMPASSION CHRONICLES REGARDING MICHIGAN’S LOCLA LEGAL VOTES: