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Criminal Justice & Legal System

More Michigan cities will vote on decriminalizing pot

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Prarie Plant Systems
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A PPS marijuana crop in Canada

In Berkley, activists say they've now turned in enough signatures to put decriminalization on the local ballot this fall. 

The city clerk says they'll know whether or not the signatures are valid by Thursday.  

Berkley is just the latest city to consider the issue.

Similar proposals are already on the August primary ballots in Oak Park and Hazel Park.

And the group behind the petitions, the Safer Michigan Coalition, says it plans to turn in another petition in Saginaw next week. 

Voters will get to decide if criminal penalties should be wiped out for people over 21 who have an ounce of pot on private property. 

Of course, recreational pot is still not legal in Michigan. And the proposals don't force local police to do anything differently.  

Chuck Ream is the executive director of the Safer Michigan Coalition. He says these votes still matter.

"Local leaders can do whatever they want to do," he says. "If they want to follow democracy, they should implement what we pass at the polls." 

But these votes are also about getting attention from the people who can change the law: the state Legislature. 

Ream's hope is that eventually, so many cities will vote for decriminalization that lawmakers in Lansing won't be able to ignore it.

"If all these cities vote yes, we would like the Legislature to pass decriminalization," he says.  

Similar petitions are also circulating in a dozen other cities.  

Several towns, including Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, have already voted in favor of decriminalization. 

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