GRAND RAPIDS, Mich – The Kent County Prosecutor filed a lawsuit in Kent County Circuit Court challenging the legality of the city charter amendment that decriminalized marijuana.
Grand Rapids voters approved the ballot proposal by over a 58% majority in November.
It changes the possession and use of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction, like a parking ticket.
Prosecutor Bill Forsyth has been a longtime critic of the amendment and argues in the lawsuit that it conflicts with state law and makes it difficult for him and Grand Rapids police to do their jobs.
“Police officers are sworn to uphold the law. Officers who are sworn to uphold the law cannot be told that they will be breaking the law by upholding the law,” the suit states.
It gives several examples. In one of them, a police officer finds a subject in possession of a small amount of marijuana and placed that information a police report submitted to the prosecutor’s office in a request for a warrant saying that the subject was found with a small amount of pot.
“The officer would be committing a crime,” it states.
“Such an ordinance violates the laws of the State of Michigan and is unlawful.”
Grand Rapids was ready to implement the amendment on December 6, but that’s been put on hold pending the lawsuit.
“The prosecutor’s office also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order asking the Kent County Circuit Court to enter an injunction or order prohibiting Grand Rapids and the police department from going ahead to enforce or implement the charter,” explained Grand Rapids City Attorney Catherine Mish.
The voters have spoken and the city commission is committed to doing everything they can to implement the will of the voters, that’s why the city was poised to go ahead and implement the local civil infraction offense as of this Thursday, but of course the city will honor the court’s order,” said Mish.
Prosecutor Bill Forsyth has been a critic of the amendment from the start, saying it is too broad.
“There’s no age limit to it. So unlike alcohol, you can’t drink in theory until you’re 21. You can give marijuana, under this charter amendment to school kids, and you’ll only have committed a civil infraction,” said Forsyth.
More than 50,000 people in Grand Rapids supported the change. Michael Tuffelmire, Director of DecriminalizeGr the citizen initiative that put Proposal 2 on the ballot in the first place got word of the lawsuit on Monday.
Yes, we engaged thousands of voters, educated them on how they felt and the majority of public officials felt this was the right thing for the city,” said Tuffelmire.
“DecriminalizeGr was put together to pass Proposition 2 and we did so, I can’t comment any further on the lawsuit right now I can just say we are accessing our next steps,” he said.