Detroit Police in Limbo Following Decriminalization of Small Amounts of Marijuana

In November, Detroit voters passed a proposal legalizing the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by individuals over 21 years old. However, it doesn’t seem that much has changed as far as police or the government are concerned. Voters passed the proposal 65-35; now, those over age 21 can supposedly possess as much as an ounce of the drug when on private property, although state police say the proposal has no impact on how they enforce drug laws.

State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said that nothing has changed for Detroit state police, because according to state law it is still illegal for those who do not have a medical marijuana card to possess marijuana. State police do not enforce local ordinances, and Shaw says that as far as their agency goes, individuals caught with pot will be cited for a misdemeanor violation. A conviction could mean up to one year in jail and up to $2,000 in fines.

According to Shaw, even though the proposal passed it is legal for any agency to write a violation according to state law. Detroit Police Sgt Eren Stephens of the Public Information Office said that the city of Detroit Law Department is reviewing the new legislation.

How possession of marijuana will be handled by the Wayne State Police Department is a question that’s still up in the air. The department patrols the campus of Wayne State University and surrounding areas, and occasionally receives calls regarding marijuana at apartments or dormitories, although Police Chief Anthony Holt said he hasn’t received any calls since the passing of the new law.

Holt stated in news reports that the department has not devised an official policy, but that the department would have to get an opinion because marijuana possession is a crime under federal law. Wayne County Sheriff’s Office Dennis Niemiec said their department is equally unclear on how these cases will be handled, and that their training and legal departments are reviewing the issue.

Because of the way laws regarding the possession of marijuana are being perceived by law enforcement agencies at the present time, Michigan criminal defense attorneys advise anyone who is arrested for possessing even a small amount of marijuana to consult with a lawyer.


If you have been charged with any drug-related offense, contact a Michigan criminal defense lawyer who will work to keep you out of jail and protect your legal rights.