Michigan cities have already approved two local ballot proposals legalizing the personal use and possession of marijuana for all adults in 2014, more than a dozen more cities have received enough signatures to place the issue before their voters, and almost all communities are playing fair with the rules. Almost all.
"We had ambitious goals," Safer Michigan Coalition co-founder Tim Beck of Detroit told listeners of the Planet Green Trees Radio Show on September 11. "We wanted to have 16 ballot initiatives hitting in the state of Michigan this election cycle."
"Some of these have fallen by the wayside due to technical problems, human frailty," and legal issues.
The cities of Oak Park and Hazel Park offered the choice to legalize cannabis to their citizens during the August primary election, and both communities said YES. The remaining cities that qualify for the ballot will give their voters the option during the November general election.
According to Beck, these are the cities where ballot proposals to eliminate marijuana prohibition will be voted on in November:
These cities, "to the best of our knowledge and belief have all been certified for the ballot. They will all be voted on by the people in those cities in November," Beck announced.
"There are question marks... East Lansing, Montrose, Utica, Keego Harbor and Grosse Pointe Park were also target cities."
Grosse Pointe Park's campaign submitted valid signatures but experienced a technical issue with the language of the petitions. "We're gonna be there next year," Beck assured listeners.
"Utica appears to be out," Beck said, citing an incorrect citation in the legal references used on the petition's face, referring to the "typographical error" as a "fatal flaw." Although a legal challenge has been proposed to answer the small city's claim of error, Beck concedes that it is "highly unlikely" that voters will be given this option in 2014.
In Keego Harbor, not enough signatures were submitted to qualify for the 2014 ballot but petitioners promise to complete the process in 2015.
In Montrose there were no failures on the part of the petitioners, but city politics and an infrequent Council schedule prevented officials from forwarding the petitions to the proper authorities by the state-mandated deadline. Conflicts in law give the Safer Montrose petitioners an opportunity to sue for satisfaction; precedent dictates that election law supersedes state timetables, which would be a welcome result for all involved. "The Genesee County Clerk is almost welcoming a lawsuit," Beck opined, a sentiment that was echoed by Thetford Township Trustee Eric Gunnels, who also made a guest appearance on the broadcast. Montrose and Thetford are neighboring communities north of Flint in Genesee County. The final word has not been written on the Montrose proposal. Any legal action would be initiated by attorney Jeffrey Hank, who successfully ran the Lansing ballot proposal last year and headed the East Lansing proposal in 2014. "We can't write Montrose off," Beck said.
Speaking of the city beside the state capital, Beck told listeners that "East Lansing is another planet... they are real mean players. They don't like ballot initiatives." The day after the broadcast aired, Hank announced that East Lansing had certified enough signatures to qualify for the ballot but, like Montrose, they had not submitted them to the county authorities in time to make this November's ballot. It may take a lawsuit to get justice in that city, Beck discussed. Hank will be the lead attorney on the legal challenge to East Lansing's obstruction.
Defects in the election process are commonplace in a state where election laws is so detailed as to make complete compliance elusive and subject to interpretation. Cities handle these discrepancies differently.
Earlier in 214 the city of Oak Park attempted to refuse their legal obligation to place the issue of marijuana legalization before their voters in the August primary and push it off until the November General Election. Petitioners had submitted signatures in the proper timetable to have it appear on the primary ballot and sued the city. Their attorney was none other than the former Chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, Mark Brewer, and the city lost their stalling attempt. The issue was voted on and passed, as was an identical proposal in neighboring city Hazel Park.
Gunnels explained the situation in Montrose was not nearly as contentious as Oak Park had been. "I was at the Montrose City Hall meeting tonight," Gunnels offered on the broadcast. At that meeting, Montrose Mayor Fouts and the Council "basically voted tonight to give their approval on it to go through," Gunnels related. "They gave their stamp of approval on it to be done, whether the County does it or not is not their responsibility."
"At this time I don't think (county clerk) John Gleason is going to do anything about it unless he is court-ordered to do something about it," Gunnels explained. Should an appeal fail, the proposal will appear on the next ballot available to the city's voters. That concept scares Montrose because a 'special election' would come at a cost to the city- and they can't afford it.
Beck, who was very critical of the processes and obstructions thrown up by the Oak Park city government, had nothing but praise for the leaders in tiny Monrose. "Montrose, Mayor Fouts and the city council, these are not our enemies," Beck said. "If worse comes to worse I promised (Mayor Fouts) that the Safer Michigan Coalition would not sue them to put it on the ballot in February and have a special election." Later, Beck said, "The local leaders in Montrose... they are as good as it gets. They are victims. Period."