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Marijuana decriminalized in Grand Rapids -- or is it?

There are several instances where federal laws and state laws are in conflict. Federal laws should trump the state laws in those cases. There are also times when a local law or piece of legislation is in conflict with a state law. That has happened recently in Grand Rapids, Michigan, according to a judge.

During the November elections, the voters in Grand Rapids approved a charter amendment which would decriminalize marijuana. Rather than treat a small amount as a criminal offense, it would instead earn the person a small fine. Instead of earning jail time, small amounts of marijuana possession would be treated like a parking ticket. Pay the fine, and you're fine.

That was fine until the court intervened. A Kent County judge issued a temporary restraining order to stop the implementation of the new process. The reasoning, according to the judge, is that marijuana is illegal under Michigan law and federal law, so how could Grand Rapids have its own set of rules, the judge argued.

This is not dissimilar to events in Colorado and the state of Washington in which state law is now in seeming conflict with federal law in regards to marijuana.

We may like to think that laws are set in stone, but they are more evolution rather than immobile.

As an interesting side note, the City of Wyoming was challenged on its total ban of medical marijuana, which is allowed by state law, and the city lost. This means that the state law trumped the local law. It will be interesting to follow what happens in Grand Rapids and until then, local residents might be wise to follow the state law rather than the local one.

Source: Michigan Radio, "Grand Rapids voters decriminalize marijuana, Kent County prosecutor sues," Lindsey Smith, Dec. 3, 2012

  • At our Lansing law firm, we represent clients charged with felonies or misdemeanors including drug charges, marijuana possession and other similar offenses.

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