Michigan Supreme Court Allows Grand Rapids Marijuana Law to Stand

Dec 13, 2015

Credit MPRN

(MPRN-Lansing) The Michigan Supreme Court has let stand an amendment to the Grand Rapids city charter that decriminalizes marijuana. 

The amendment was approved by Grand Rapids voters in 2012. It makes possession of or sharing marijuana a civil infraction punishable by fines ranging from $25 to $100 with no jail time.

It also makes marijuana cases a low police priority, and forbids city law enforcement officials from referring marijuana cases to the Kent County prosecutor’s office.

That caught the attention of long-time Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth. He challenged the amendment as an illegal restriction on his power to enforce state drug laws, which continue to make marijuana possession a crime. He lost in the Kent County Circuit Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals, which ruled in January there was no direct contradiction of state law in the amendment.

Forsyth then took his appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court. The appeal was rejected by the justices, which refused to take the case

“because we are not persuaded that the question presented should be reviewed by this Court.”

But Republican Justices Stephen Markman and David Viviano, dissented, saying the case belongs on the court’s docket.

“I would have granted the application because I believe this case presents an important constitutional question concerning whether a home rule city may, through its charter, encroach upon a county prosecutor’s broad power to enforce state law,”

wrote Viviano in the dissent. But Markman and Viviano were in the minority among the seven justices, so the Grand Rapids charter amendment remains valid.