A proposal that will appear on Detroit ballots Tuesday could partially decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But how it would affect policing in the city is still up for debate.
Proposal M would amend a 1984 Detroit city ordinance in order to exempt adults over the age of 21 from being prosecuted for the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana on private property.
In June former Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee -- who resigned last month due to a sex scandal -- said even if the measure passed the department might continue to enforce existing state and federal laws outlawing marijuana possession.
"A city ordinance can't trump that," he told MLive. "So that would be the priority for us. If you look at the amount of devastation that substance abuse has caused in the inner city, anything that makes it easier to access that, fundamentally I'm opposed to it."
Detroit police had no immediate comment on how the proposal would affect policing in the city.
"The Detroit Police Department is aware of this proposal, and will be ready to address this ordinance, if it should pass," Sgt. Eren L. Stephens, a DPD spokeswoman, told the Huffington Post.
The Coalition for a Safer Detroit, which put the measure on the ballot, says its passage would encourage Detroit police to focus more of their resources on serious crimes. A statement on the group's website argues that de-prioritizing marijuana possession as a crime would save the police and courts a considerable amount time and money:
"The 36th District Court records indicate there were 1,521 arrests in 2009 for simple possession or use of small amounts of marijuana in Detroit. Every hour spent by police officers, prosecutors and court personnel processing minor marijuana offenses is time being diverted from dealing with crimes that produce real victims. Each case requires a minimum of 5 hours to process at an estimated cost of $350 per hour, making the total cost of these unnecessary prosecutions more than $2.6 million per year."
Detroit City Council wouldn't consider the issue when it was brought before them in 2010, on the grounds that the measure conflicted with state law. Following the advice of the city's Law Department, the Detroit Election Commission later voted 3-0 to block the referendum. It became the subject of a lengthy court battle before finally being certified for the ballot this year.
"I would like to see those statistics on those individuals who are in prison and who are placed behind bars who strictly had that amount of marijuana on them and that was the only reason why," Detroit Council Member James Tate told The Huffington Post. "That kind of information was not presented to us when the referendum was being requested for us to place it on the ballot."
Although never a sworn police officer, Tate worked with the Detroit Police Department as 2nd Deputy Chief before being elected to council. He said he remembered that, during his time with the department, a number of individuals arrested for committing crimes were either in possession of or under the influence of marijuana. Tate said that some parallels could be drawn between the drug and criminal offenses, though he also said that didn't mean marijuana was a cause of any individual wanting to create or take part in criminal activity.
But the councilman told The Huffington Post that regardless of whether Proposal M passes, he doesn't believe it would have any immediate effect on local policing.
"We can talk the ifs, possibles, maybes, but the reality is in fact that marijuana is a federal crime," he said. "Depending on how the voters cast their ballots, it may send a message either one way or the other, but right now by law we still have to follow the what's federally mandated."
For a list of surprising marijuana reform advocates look below.
The conservative former Fox News host is known for going on rants, but who would have predicted this tirade against the failure of marijuana prohibition? “I think it's about time we legalize marijuana... We either put people who are smoking marijuana behind bars or we legalize it, but this little game we are playing in the middle is not helping us, it is not helping Mexico and it is causing massive violence on our southern border... Fifty percent of the money going to these cartels is coming just from marijuana coming across our border.”
The notoriously cautious former White House chief of staff, who urged President Obama to stay away from polarizing issues and take a middle-of-the-road approach, pushed through a money-saving marijuana decriminalization law after becoming mayor of Chicago. “We have police officers...arresting people for 10 grams, 11 grams, 12 grams. A huge amount of time dedicated to that. Then, they go to court. That means they're not on the street fighting gangs, fighting gun violence... I think [the decriminalization proposal is] a smart change because I want our police officers focused on serious violent crime.”
The Republican governor of Texas and former presidential candidate doesn't fancy himself a fan of marijuana, but does support consistently applying the principles of federalism and states' rights, even when it comes to medical marijuana laws. “[If] you want to go somewhere where you can smoke medicinal weed, then you ought to be able to do that.”
You wouldn't know it from the way so many national politicians act like talking about the marijuana issue is some kind of dangerous "third rail" of politics, but polls from respected firms Gallup and Rasmussen both show majority support for legalizing marijuana. Gallup has been polling the marijuana legalization question for 40 years but found majority support for the first time in 2011, with 50 percent of voters in favor and just 46 percent opposed. Rasmussen reports that 56 percent support legalization.
While not a supporter of legalization per se, the Fox News host says he simply doesn't care whether people use marijuana in the privacy of their own homes. This puts some distance between his vision and current law, which allows for police to enter the homes of peaceful marijuana users who don't bother anyone else. These raids, which are sometimes conducted on the wrong houses due to misinformation, often lead to death for people and dogs shot by police. “My philosophy is if you want to smoke marijuana in your basement, I don't care. I'm not going to get a search warrant and kick your door in. I think that's foolish... But...if you get behind the wheel of a car, if you sell the dope to my kid, if my kid sees you smoking...I then will demand that the authorities protect me and my family from you, the marijuana smoker in public. Am I wrong?”
The president of Colombia, a country that is one of the U.S.'s most important allies in the "war on drugs," is probably one of the last people you would expect to call the entire global approach to drug control a failure and to support having a conversation about legalization, but that's exactly what he's doing. “A new approach should try and take away the violent profit that comes with drug trafficking... If that means legalising, and the world thinks that's the solution, I will welcome it.”
The Republican former governor of Alaska and vice presidential candidate is known for speaking her mind, but did you know that she thinks cops have better things to do than bust people for marijuana? “We need to prioritize our law enforcement efforts, and if somebody's gonna smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody else any harm, then perhaps there are other things that our cops should be looking at to engage in and try to clean up some of the other problems that we have in society that are appropriate for law enforcement to do.”
Who could be more mainstream than this legendary Grammy Award-winning singer? Following the tragic death of Whitney Houston, Bennett urged the legalization of all drugs -- not just marijuana -- to better protect the health and safety of drug users. “I'd like to have every gentleman and lady in this room commit themselves to get our government to legalize drugs -- so they'll have to get it through a doctor, not just some gangsters that just sell it under the table.”
While many HuffPost readers may disagree vehemently with Koch's politics overall, particularly his support for the Tea Party, you may be surprised to learn that he is a funder of the criminal justice reform group Families Against Mandatory Minimums and that he supports decriminalizing marijuana. “I have friends who smoke pot... It's ridiculous to treat them as criminals.”
Over the years, the Christian televangelist has said some things that many HuffPost readers may find wacky, but his position in support of marijuana legalization is completely sane. “I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol. I've never used marijuana and I don't intend to, but it's just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn't succeeded.”