by Rich Birkett
Michigan Attorney General Office's recommendation to decline approval of AAMMI comes as no surprise to organizers. In fact, it was expected.
The controversy dates back to the inception of Ann Arbor's marijuana charter provisions in 1974. A subsection requiring Ann Arbor police and city attorney to prosecute only under local charter provisions has so far been unchallenged in court. An identical subsection in Ypsilanti's marijuana ordinance was declared unenforceable by the Michigan Court of Appeals in 1977.
In 1990, when Republican mayor Jernigan and council proposed raising the fine from $5 to $25, Gov. Blanchard vetoed the proposal on the same grounds. Council overrode the Governor's veto, and the proposal appeared on the ballot.
Fortunately, a decision to decline approval will have no legal effect. The proposal will still appear on the ballot in November.
What's different about AAMMI from the 1990 proposal, is that AAMMI has an additional new subsection that mirrors the language of the existing controversial subsection. It requires the police and city attorney to not prosecute medical marijuana users and providers. Because the new subsection does not specify under which laws the police and city attorney shall not prosecute, the subsection is open to interpretation as to whether it applies only to city law, or, includes state law, too. Regardless of which interpretation prevails, the net effect of the new subsection is to extend the existing limitations on prosecutions to include city law when the defendant is a medical marijuana user or provider.Because the controversial subsections may someday be declared unenforceable, organizers added language to include an affirmative defense and a fine waiver. The affirmative defense and fine waiver language is not in dispute and is completely legal under state law.
Commentators have suggested that the AAMMI proposal is symbolic, and, while it's true AAMMI will not legalize medical marijuana in Ann Arbor, its provisions will make a real difference to patients, because most marijuana law enforcement occurs at the local level.