Language approved by the Michigan Senate in the state's budget bill threatens to strip the city of Ann Arbor of millions of dollars in state funds unless the city imposes stricter marijuana penalties.
Ann Arbor Council Member Christopher Kolb (D) called the measure "blackmail," and many state representatives say the proposal is unconstitutional because it attempts to usurp power from local government and redirect it to the state.
"I don't think the state Senate has any business dictating to local governments what they can do, especially withholding revenue sharing," said Rep. Mary Schroer (D-Scio Township).
An amendment to House Bill 5595 states that the department of treasury shall withhold ten percent in state revenue sharing funds to any city that fails to enforce state marijuana penalties. Presently, only Ann Arbor has marijuana possession penalties lower than the state standard. Simple possession of marijuana in the city is a noncriminal infraction punishable by a $50 fine.
Amendment sponsor Sen. Mike Rogers (R-Brighton) said that the city's lenient marijuana policy sends the wrong message to children. He said that if Ann Arbor lost state funding, residents may be "encouraged" to repeal the 1974 city law.
Senators and representatives must still debate the budget bill in conference committee where opponents of the amendment say they will fight to eliminate the language from the budget.
For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or R. Keith Stroup, Esq. of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.