(Crystal A. Proxmire, Oct. 28, 2013)
What will happen if voters approve a ballot measure to legalize marijuana for adults over age 21 possessing an ounce or less on private property? That is the debate taking place around Prop. A in Ferndale, which will be on the ballot for Nov. 5. A recent Citizens for Fair Ferndale forum gave someone from each side of the issue the opportunity to share their views.
Police Chief Tim Collins spoke as a Ferndale resident against the proposal. Former Mayor Craig Covey spoke in favor of it.
He also argued that the ordinance is poorly written. “Because of the wording of the ordinance, because there was no restrictions, if the intent of this ordinance was to allow people to be in their own home and to possess a small amount of marijuana, that is not what this ordinance has allowed. This opens up a whole avenue of people that, in some cases, this is a very volatile kind of a thing. People like to test it. You might have people that think ‘well let’s see if the cops are gonna come and I’m gonna stand between a sidewalk and a business that’s clearly not public land and see if they can test this ordinance.'”
Collins added “It was so poorly written and not thought out that this ordinance needs to go back. There needs to be a dialogue that needs to be done if legalization, if decriminalization is ever going to happen. This has to be well planned out, well thought out, thought of all the contingencies and then, and only then, I’m still not for it, but then and only then should it be considered. This is a shot in the dark, let’s see if this is going to fly kind of thing. And even the person that brought the ordinance, had the petitions signed, at City Council said ‘well maybe I should have rethought the language in this.”
Covey disagreed. “I still submit that the language is fine. It’s very short, there’s not very many words. And it was written by experts. And again, this is not a big experiment for Ferndale. This is not something that has never been done anywhere else. It’s been done all across the country. The only surprising thing is that Ferndale is so late to the party, if you pardon that expression. Ann Arbor decriminalized marijuana 40 years ago. So I don’t know if people flock to Ann Arbor. A lot of students go there for school. I do know their property values are high, they have good schools,” he said.
“Let’s go back four years ago when Ferndale was voting on medical marijuana. With all due respect, we heard the same kind of comments from a previous police chief who said that this is going to be terrible, this is gonna open up the gates, that I’m not gonna enforce this law if it passes. Well it did pass four years ago. There’s been no crisis. Medical marijuana has been a decent, and acceptable and popular situation so I think we can do this and be in front instead of behind on the issue.”
The proposal has drawn criticism by other elected officials who normally support decriminalization efforts. As part of the CFF Forum Saturday, Councilperson Melanie Piana was asked her position on Prop. A. She said that she would be voting no even though she had voted in favor of medical marijuana in the past. She said that marijuana should be regulated like liquor and smoking, and that she was “astounded that the petitioner came to council and said the language needed work.”
At the August City Council meeting, City Attorney Dan Christ agreed that “private property” is a broad term. “It leaves the potential, because of the wording, for anybody on private property. I think maybe the intent was in your own home or in your own domicile, but it leaves… hundreds of different scenarios that it could lead to. It could be bars. It could be daycare centers. It could be anywhere that is private you could be allowed to smoke or transfer marijuana on any type of private property… It is poorly written in that respect.”
When the petition came before City Council on August 12, Councilperson Dan Martin was the lone supporter. His motion to accept the petition was not seconded so no vote was taken. However, Martin explained his reasons for wanting to see the issue move forward, stating “This ordinance is virtually unenforceable. … I believe I was elected to represent the people. And I know that represents a broad array of folks in the community. But I do tend to favor decriminalization and I think this ordinance at least sends a message joining other cities that have done so through ballot initiatives that says as a state and as a country we need to look at our drug policies.”
Read more about the marijuana issue in Ferndale through our previous stories:
http://ferndale115.com/20100826clinic.html – Ferndale Clinic Still Open After Raid
http://www.ferndale115.com/20100629medicalm.html – Ferndale Places Moratorium on Medical Marijuana Based Businesses.