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Effort to decriminalize marijuana possession in Grand Rapids turns in thousands of signatures

Tyler Nickerson
Decriminalize GR

A group that’s trying to make marijuana possession in the City of Grand Rapids only a civil infraction turned in more than enough signatures to get the initiative on the November ballot.

The group modeled the proposed changes to Grand Rapids’ city charter after Ann Arbor’s. In Ann Arbor, fines for marijuana possession start at just $25 and are not more $100.

Tyler Nickerson is with the group known as Decriminalize GR. It collected more than 10,000 signatures during the petition drive.

Nickerson says marijuana possession charges harm the lives of many young people who have otherwise promising futures.

"What we heard time and time again was that current marijuana laws are harmful and devastating to our neighborhoods. That our youth are unable to obtain federal scholarships and grants for college and they’re left out of employment opportunities in the long run,” Nickerson said.

He says the issue is less about marijuana and more about using scarce taxpayer money wisely.

"We’re asking voters to support the decriminalization of marijuana because it saves taxpayers dollars and keeps our kids out of jail,” Nickerson said. Nickerson says the city could save more than $2 million a year by voting for the charter change.

The proposed changes would not allow marijuana sales or overrule state or federal laws. It would only change how local police officers deal with marijuana possession within city limits. People caught with marijuana should only be charged with a civil infraction, instead of a criminal charge.

The city clerk has until mid-September to certify the signatures before the decision goes before voters.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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