Detroit — A City Council committee turned down the chance to legalize marijuana today, clearing the way for voters to weigh in on the debate in November.
Last month, the Coalition for a Safer Detroit filed petitions with City Clerk Janice Winfrey seeking to legalize possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use.
The city charter allows the City Council the first chance to approve such an ordinance change without it going to voters. The council had 30 days to act after the clerk found the petitions were sufficient May 18.
City lawyer Dennis Mazurek told the council today that members couldn’t pass an ordinance that conflicts with state law. But he wouldn’t comment later when asked by reporters what will happen if voters approve the ordinance change.
The Internal Operations Committee meeting, chaired by Councilman Andre Spivey, ended with no action to move the issue to the full Detroit City Council for a vote. If the council acted, the mayor would still have had to approve the change.
Tim Beck, a registered medical marijuana user who filed the petitions, said he wasn’t surprised the council didn’t act but said he expects the effort to be approved by voters, in part because it will make the city safer.
“It frees up the police department … to pursue crimes with actual victims,” Beck said.
He said he’s reviewed data that shows Detroit made 1,500 arrests last year related to marijuana possession.
Beck said he now expects the issue to go back for afinal approval of the ballot language by the Wayne County Election Commission in the next several weeks.