Marijuana proposal on November ballot

by Peter Jakey-Managing Editor

It is less than one month until the November general election.

Only a few more weeks to deal with political ads, but there are some issues that voters are going to have to sort through before heading to the polls.

The City of Onaway has one such issue. It is a charter amendment to a section titled “Marijuana.” The proposal is an attempt to decriminalize the possession and use of less than one ounce of marijuana on private property by an adult above the age of 21.

Initiates to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana were announced for 2014 ballots in 14 cities throughout Michigan.

The Safer Michigan Coalition, which was founded by and is run by Tim Beck, Chuck Ream and Justin Soffa, has been active in supporting pro-marijuana efforts in the state for several years.

Onaway resident Ron Langworthy initiated the local effort and sought help from Cheboygan County resident Brad Forrester, who is the official spokesman for the campaign.

“If it passes in Onaway, and vast number of the other 13 cities in Michigan, we hope that raises enough awareness and generates enough news to prime the pump, if you will, for a 2016 statewide campaign to legalize marijuana,” said Forrester. “We are doing the Onaway campaign with the assistance of Safer Michigan Coalition, who is a statewide group and wants to run a statewide campaign.”

Forrester said state polling suggested that just over 50 percent supported legalization a few months ago and it has to be closer to 60 percent to move forward.

“It costs several million dollars to pull one of these things off,” said Forrester. “The people that have the funding want to see solid numbers. That’s what these local campaigns are designed to do, create awareness and increase voter support.”

Forrester is the membership director for the Michigan Chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws. He also is a founding member of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association. Contrary to an earlier press release, there will be no meetings to discuss the proposal.

Opponents believe if the amendment was approved it would still be illegal to use recreational marijuana in the city. In August, Onaway city commissioner Bernie Schmeltzer said, “How can you vote on something that is illegal? That would be my question. The law still can be enforced and people could still could be ticketed or fined. You can’t trump state law.”

Many opponents of the initiative expect law enforcement officials to continue making arrests under state law despite local decriminalization initiatives.

Voters go to the polls Nov. 4.