An alliance of citizens seeking to assist our Detroit police officers in protecting residents from serious crime

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sat, 06/19/2010 - 11:30.

If a majority of the voters of Detroit vote YES on November 2, 2010, the city law will be changed to read:

Division 1 - Controlled Substances

Sec. 38-11-50.Applicability.
None of the provisions of this article shall apply to the use or possession
of less than 1 ounce of marihuana, on private property,
by a person who has attained the age of 21 years.

An alliance of citizens seeking to assist our Detroit police officers in protecting residents from serious crime

In a time of diminishing tax revenue and limited resources, Detroit law enforcement must focus on crimes that have a direct impact upon people and property in the community.

To help achieve this goal, the Coalition for a Safer Detroit advocates amending our city code to eliminate criminal penalties for use or possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana by adults on private property.


  1. What is the Safer Detroit Initiative?

    It is a ballot initiative sponsored by the Coalition for a Safer Detroit proposing to amend the Detroit City Code to decriminalize use or possession of an ounce or less of marijuana on private property, by anyone who has attained the age of 21 years.

  2. Has this ever been done before?

    Yes. The cities of Denver, CO, and Seattle, WA recently made use or possession of small amounts of marijuana their lowest law enforcement priority. Here in Michigan the City of Ann Arbor, made possession of small amounts of marijuana a minor "civil infraction" (like a traffic ticket) in the early 1970's. None of these jurisdictions has experienced any significant, negative consequences as a result. Marijuana is safer then alcohol. It is time we treat it accordingly.

  3. What has been the result in these other cities?

    All three are nationally recognized for their prosperity, quality of life, and educated, creative populations. Even more important, police and prosecutors in these cities have been freed up to focus on crimes with victims -- those that have a direct impact on the community, such as vandalism, auto theft, breaking and entering, and domestic violence.

  4. Some say that Detroit residents are not like those in Denver, Seattle or Ann Arbor. Detroiters are said to be so poor, uneducated and criminally inclined that a similar law here would cause marijuana use to skyrocket. Is this true?

    No. The issue is not about race, class, or education. Adult residents of Detroit are just as capable of being personally responsible in their private lives as anyone else. It has long been known that marijuana use occurs across the entire geographic and social strata of our nation. Detroit is no different in terms of personal use. The difference is the cities that have decriminalized the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana by adults have freed up the police and courts to focus their limited resources on more important matters.

  5. Some say the Detroit Police already treat marijuana as a low priority, that hardly anyone ever gets arrested for personal possession of small amounts. If so, why do we need a law like this?

    A widely disregarded law that remains on the books invites abuse through "selective enforcement." It becomes a convenient weapon that can be used arbitrarily at the whim of law enforcement.

    Further, people are in fact still being arrested in Detroit on a regular basis for merely possessing small amounts of marijuana. The 36th District Court records indicate there were 1,521 arrests in 2009 for simple possession or use of small amounts of marijuana in Detroit. Every hour spent by police officers, prosecutors and court personnel processing minor marijuana offenses is time being diverted from dealing with crimes that produce real victims. Each case requires a minimum of 5 hours to process at an estimated cost of $350 per hour, making the total cost of these unnecessary prosecutions more than $2.6 million per year.

    A story in the December 5, 2009 edition of the Detroit News reported that Detroit Police have begun issuing "civil citations" for possession of small amounts of marijuana - and then seize cars or other property and hold it for ransom. Usually no court hearing ever takes place. But this pretext forces the ticketed person to pay large sums to retrieve their property. In the case of a seized vehicle, for instance, the charges include a $900 fee plus towing and storage costs. In addition, the "civil citation" is recorded as a misdemeanor criminal conviction that never goes away, haunting victims' employment prospects for the rest of their lives. This, too, is unacceptable.

  6. Will adopting this code revision legalize driving under the influence of marijuana?

    No. A motor vehicle is considered private property when it is parked on private property. Our streets, however, are public property. Driving under the influence of marijuana will still be against the law, as is driving under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs.

  7. Even though marijuana is safer then alcohol (it is impossible to die from an "overdose" of marijuana) isn't it a "gateway" drug that can lead to the use of harder drugs?

    No. A 1999 report on marijuana by the Institute of Medicine dispelled this myth. The study concluded that marijuana had simply been mistaken for a "gateway" drug because:

    "Patterns in progression of drug use from adolescence to adulthood are strikingly regular. Because it is the most widely used illicit drug, marijuana is predictably the first illicit drug most people encounter. Not surprisingly, most users of other drugs have used marijuana first. In fact, most drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana-- usually before they are of legal age."

  8. Speaking of "legal age," wouldn't this law set a bad example for kids?

    The sad reality is that many kids are already exposed to illegal drugs. The fact that a substance is illegal oftentimes makes it even more glamorous to impressionable, young minds. A teenager or young adult arrested for small time marijuana possession is victimized for life with a criminal record, and may never be able to get a decent job or education in the future.

    As a community, we need to start the process of regulating marijuana like alcohol -- which is actually a far more dangerous drug if used abusively.

  9. What affect would passage of this code amendment have on the image of Detroit?

    It will actually enhance the image of Detroit as a hip, creative, progressive urban center -- a "cool city" just like Denver, Seattle and Ann Arbor. It will make Detroit more appealing to everyone who prefers a diverse, multicultural urban-living experience.

  10. Doesn't State law preempt local laws such as the one the Safer Detroit Coalition is proposing? Even if adopted, won't this city code revision only be "symbolic" in nature?

    It is true that state law does preempt local ordinances. Accordingly, the Detroit Police could still charge a marijuana user under state law if they choose to do so. In that sense this proposal is "symbolic." However, the more important symbolism is the clear expression of the will and priorities of the voters -- sending a message to the Mayor, Council, Prosecutor, and the Detroit Police that we want our scarce law enforcement resources used to get tougher on real crime.