Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Ann Arbor Police Won't Respect Medical Marijuana Passage

4. November 2004 • Murph
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The Ann Arbor City Attorney, Stephen Postema, has declared that the medical marijuana measure which passed with a 74% majority is “invalid”, according to the Ann Arbor News, and Police Chief Dan Oates has instructed his officers to continue enforcing state and federal marijuana laws in the same manner as in the past.

From the Ann Arbor News, Medical marijuana vote called invalid:

In a 1977 decision involving a case in Ypsilanti, the state appeals court ruled that city officials weren’t prohibited from referring marijuana cases for prosecution under state law, despite a city ordinance that said they couldn’t refer such cases to the Washtenaw County prosecutor.

Based on that case, Postema said, his office and police can’t be bound by charter amendment prohibitions that conflict with state and federal law. Those laws, he said, will continue to govern marijuana arrests in Ann Arbor.

A response from initiative backer Chuck Ream suggests that, while the measure may not be enforceable, the overwhelming public support of the measure should be considered by the City and Police Department when deciding how to pursue enforcement of state and federal laws.

While Mayor Hieftje has stated that he’s personally in favor of the measure, the City Council has not yet taken a official position on the measure. Councilmembers Reid (R-2nd), Greden (D-3rd), Higgins (D-4th), and Woods (D-5th) voted against a procedural motion to put the measure on the ballot in July, after signatures had been collected. All are up for re-election in 2005, suggesting an avenue for encouraging the City to respect the referendum.

See also a response from Rich Birkett to the State Attorney General’s office regarding the enforceability of the initiative.

Edit, 5 Nov, Murph: The court case mentioned by City Attorney Postema is Joslin v. 14th District Judge, 76 Mich. App. 90. My reading suggests that this case only invalidates portions of the local ordinance forbidding the local police from applying state law, but upholds (explicitly) the portion of the ordinance defining lower local standards and allowing the police a choice between local and state law. Under this reading, the 74% approval of Ann Arbor’s ballot measure should definitely be taken as a directive, albeit non-binding, to the police department to apply the lower, local standards. Your choice of beverage from Cafe Ambrosia to the first lawyer or law student who can give a confident confirmation or rejection of my reading.



  1. Well, here’s the situation:

    2nd Ward is still largely GOP supporters and they’ll likely fight like hell to maintain their lone seat on the council.

    Woods is almost untouchable in 5th Ward, winning by colossal margins every time she’s been challenged.

    Higgins’ position in 4th Ward is uncertain now that she’s switched parties halfway through her term.

    But the word here and elsewhere seems to be that Greden is not nearly as popular as Carlberg in the 3rd Ward, given his opposition to this issue and promotion of the couch ban, among other things.

    So, my question is this: If we run a Green to unseat him next fall, can we get consistent support from outside Green circles?

    You get what you vote for…
       —Marc R.    Nov. 4 '04 - 07:26PM    #
  2. Well, if everyone keeps voting straight-ticket like this, Marc, you may have some trouble. I wonder why they don’t do-away with that system… it seems bad for democracy and gives people an easy way to cop-out of not doing their research.

    I’d vote Green over Greden (if I lived in that ward)... and if you guys can get someone with a little experience you could probably do well. The problem with Greens is they seem to be running 23 year old college students half the time (I’m one myself, but I don’t know if I’d vote for me, especially if I was a middle-aged homeowner). You’ll basically need to find a candidate who can really garner respect from a good swath of the community, someone pragmatists won’t write-off as a wide-eyed hippie. Just trying to be practical, no offense meant to you or your party. And for the record, I voted Damren for Regent.
       —Brandon    Nov. 4 '04 - 11:08PM    #
  3. Marc,

    I’d ideally like to find a slate of people next year to run against all of the incumbents twice—once in the primary (which Kestenbaum seems to think the most viable strategy), and once in the general election. (And if the primary challenger wins, the general election will be good regardless of how it turns out.) We can’t win if we don’t challenge them, so we might as well challenge them in every way possible.

    Historically, odd-year elections in Ann Arbor are about 2k-3k voters per ward; a strong student mobilization effort could turn out plenty of folks who would like to see council candidates openly advocating students’ interests, or closer to Green than Dem.
       —Murph    Nov. 5 '04 - 06:53AM    #
  4. The point about straight-ticket voting is spot on. It killed us across the state this year. So, yes, there’s nothing we can do about that. However, the 2005 election also won’t be carrying the weight of this year. I freely admit that I took on what were possibly the worst possible circumstances (multi-term incumbent Democrat with a weighty race dominating the top of the ticket.) But the fact that it allows people to ignore what the candidates say (or don’t) is exactly why the major parties keep straight-ticket voting. It inherently benefits them and drowns us out as people can vote for labels instead of candidates and feel like they’re doing the ‘right’ thing, even if they’re not.

    The ‘experience’ thing is a red herring, IMO. How does one get experience without getting elected to office? And why doesn’t anyone mention experience when it’s a major party candidate in the race? It’s almost always used against minor parties.

    And I’ll be 35 by the time that race gets seriously underway… ;)
       —Marc R.    Nov. 5 '04 - 08:10AM    #
  5. No disrespect to the Greens, but I really think Greden should be challenged in the Democratic primary where voter turnout is low and run a massive get-out-the-vote campaign among students and renters and sympathetic homeowners. Carlberg is A LOT more progressive than he is. Then if you lose to him in the primary by all means run against him again in the general election. Primaries are the best way for an energized grassroots group to break through in our electoral system (this by the way is the main path to power of the Religious Right, constantly besting moderates in contested primaries). Greden has higher political aspirations and it would be nice to send a message that anti-student bias and NIMBY illiberalism and wishy-washy Republicans pretending to be Democrats because of the political climate of Ann Arbor won’t be tolerated.
       —Matt    Nov. 5 '04 - 09:10AM    #
  6. Matt, that’s exactly what I’m saying: hit Greden (and everybody else, I’m not just gunning for Greden) both in the primary and the general election. Since filing for the general has to be done before the primary takes place, an approach of “if you lose the primary, run against him in the general” won’t work. Have to do both simultaneously. And maybe get some unofficial fusion-voting going on. Have the general election candidate run as an Independant who is backed by the Republican, Green, and Libertarian parties, so that you don’t have anybody splitting the challenger votes. (I believe such an alliance is not impossible.)
       —Murph    Nov. 5 '04 - 10:55AM    #
  7. Well, if that’s the path that others choose to take, so be it. But I won’t. I’m not a Democrat, so there’s no sense in me running in the Dem primary. As I’ve often said, the difference between the Greens and other political parties is that we run strictly on principle, because those principles make up the very reason for our existence as a party.

    I don’t think there’s any intrinsic value in continuing to treat the Democratic party as if it carries some value or meaning to regular people. Our campaigns are based on the perspective that we provide, not the label attached to our names or considerations for others’ political identity. If people are so tied up in labels that, as a Republican student, they simply can’t vote for a Green despite my being, for example, the only candidate opposing the couch ban and stressing affordable housing and greater student inclusion in changes in the city, then their problem is not something that I can solve. At some point (and local politics offer the best possibility for this), people are going to have to break with the labels and actually vote for candidates based on what they say. As usual, a tremendous contributor to this would be IRV, which a2IRV is hoping to get on this next ballot, as well.
       —Marc R.    Nov. 5 '04 - 01:15PM    #
  8. Yep, I’m a signature collecter (albeit very slowly) for A2IRV. So I’m all in favor of that.

    I’m totally going to call you on your inconsistancy in that comment, though. You say, “I’m not a Democrat, so there’s no sense in me running in the Dem primary.” and then say, “Our campaigns are based on the perspective that we provide, not the label attached to our names or considerations for others’ political identity. If people are so tied up in labels…”

    I wholly agree with your statement at the planners’ forum last week that you’d rather lose than compromise your core principles—but I’d hope that the label is not one of your core principles. I’d far rather have a Green-principled Democrat-labeled councilmember than a Green-principled candidate who loses because he’s too proud of his Green label to run as a Democrat. If you really believe the label is less important than the perspectives, take your perspectives and your principles, and run under the meaningless label that will win you the election, not the meaningless label that will lose you the election.
       —Murph    Nov. 5 '04 - 02:12PM    #
  9. So when does the organizing for the 2005 elections begin? Count me in.
       —Dale    Nov. 5 '04 - 06:54PM    #
  10. Many cities in Michigan have non-partisan council races but those that do also tend to have at-large voting instead of wards. Given that straight-ticket voting is the kiss of death to 3rd parties in a Presidential year, it seems to me that IRV should be combined with non-partisan council races by ward if one wants to really give 3rd parties a fighting chance. I to am participating in getting IRV passed in Ann Arbor but the petition we are circulating does not say anyting about stright ticket voting, let alone going to non-partisan council races. Also, here’s the rub: we currently have 800 sigs and we would have to throw them out if we re-write the petition. So, would it be worth re-writting the petition? BTW, going to non-partisan races would eliminate primary voting for council seats as well.
       —chuck    Nov. 5 '04 - 10:49PM    #
  11. Chuck, definitely not worth rewriting the petition!

    I think we should get IRV passed on this petition, and we can work on non-partisan races next. One victory at a time!

    I don’t know if there’s anything we can do about straight-ticket voting right now—that might be a state-level thing (aside from making the council non-partisan and splitting them away from the tickets).
       —Murph    Nov. 6 '04 - 09:39AM    #
  12. You cannot stop straight-ticket voting except at the state level. BTW the Republican party also wants to stop it because they believe that it helps the Dems more in down-ballot races.

    You gotta take one NIMBY Democrat out in the primary. Just one loss and the rest of council wouldn’‘t touch an issue such as couch bans with a ten foot pole, and they would be a lot less likely to cave on ADUs and so forth knowing there is another power base in town. If it takes a one-two coordinated punch, where the Greens help out in the primary and the grassroots group then pledges to vote Green in the general, why not?
       —Matt    Nov. 6 '04 - 10:40AM    #
  13. Matt,

    You can stop straight-ticket voting by going to non-partisan Council races. In fact, Jim Moreno of Mt. Pleasent who is a Green has just been re-elected. I don’t think it is an accident that a Green was elected under an at-large, non-partisan council system. Another thing, I and the Green Party are against eliminating straight-ticket voting at the State level for precisely the reasons stated above, it would be a sly way of disenfranchising Detroit voters in statewide races. BTW, Detroit city council races are non-partisan and at-large (no wards.)
       —chuck    Nov. 6 '04 - 01:05PM    #
  14. Murph,
    I wasn’t clear. The reason I’m a Green is because I want to run on those principles. Running as a Democrat essentially voids that. It reduces me to a major party candidate who is simply running to win. It automatically alienates many GOP voters who might otherwise listen to what I have to say. It tells genuine progressives that I am carrying the banner of a party whose platform changes to whichever way the wind blows. I can’t do that. IMO, the Democratic party is as much a part of the problems of militarism, lack of economic equality, and lack of social justice as the GOP is. I can bore you to tears with the current and historical examples which back that up (most of which you probably already know.) I carry the label of a Green because that label means principle. I want people to vote for me because of what I say and who I am, not simply because I’m a Green, but also not simply because I’m a Democrat.

    We have to make a change somewhere. We must draw a line and say: ‘We won’t go past this, even if it costs us the election.’ However, that choice won’t be so prevalent if we can get people to line up behind us. People constantly say: “I would have voted for you, if I thought you could win.” If we get enough of those people to actually vote for a Green, we WILL win, and we WILL begin to see genuine, positive change in our society. But I can’t make those people do that with a tiny campaign. We need a large movement that shows plenty of strength to other voters. Strategic angles via the primaries and other structures designed to weed out the outsiders (even only nominal ones; witness Howard Dean) are pointless, IMO. We have to break the perception that there are only two real choices on the ballot.
       —Marc R.    Nov. 6 '04 - 06:10PM    #
  15. To badly paraphrase Alinsky, “Saying the ends don’t justify the means is pointless—you have to ask ‘what ends?’ and ‘what means?’”

    I understand that the label “Green” has certain connotations (some of them that you apply to yourself, and some that others apply to you) and that the label “Democrat” has others. However, I think that you’re veering awfully close to saying, “I’m more concerned with wearing my principles on my sleeve than with getting the chance to implement those principles.”

    You can run as a Dem and talk as a Green. And yes, people will think, “Oh, he’s just saying that!” But your actions are not predetermined by somebody else’s perceptions of the label “Democrat”. If you let the label compromise your principles, that’s your own fault, and not anybody else’s perception that’s causing it. If you run under the label “Democrat”, talk Green principles, and actually live up to those principles, you’re not compromising anything with the label. And if the label really bothers you, then pull a Higgins and jump parties the day after the election.
       —Murph    Nov. 6 '04 - 08:42PM    #
  16. Chuck,

    I wasn’t clear, thanks for the clarification. Obviously nonpartisan council races would be unaffected by straight-party voting, should that change be made at the local level. A state-level full changeover would be intended, as you indicate, to reduce Detroit’s power.

    I am not supportive of at-large municipal elections because they traditionally have been used to concentrate power in the corporate/chamber of commerce sector and to disfranchise minorities by diluting their vote.
       —Matt    Nov. 7 '04 - 09:34AM    #
  17. Chuck,

    I’m with Matt. I don’t think the at-large elections work well at all in Detroit—and they may as well be non-partisan since 80%+ of votes always go to Democrats. As Matt states, at-large elections take representatives further away from their constituent base and make it difficult to get attention to localized problems or hold politicians accountable who might pursue policies detrimental to an area of the city…
       —Scott T.    Nov. 7 '04 - 11:24AM    #
  18. Matt,

    I agree the at-large, non-partisan systems in the past have been set up at the local level to increase corporate control so I will not argue for this. However, I beleve the main problem comes from the at-large part, not the non-partisan part. Ideally, I believe a non-partisan, ward based system with IRV used to select the ward rep. would be the most ideal system for progressive voters and other outsiders to get a chance to be elected.
       —chuck    Nov. 7 '04 - 11:27AM    #
  19. Can someone explain to me why people in Detroit couldn’t just as easily vote for a Democrat individually in each race if they so desired? Why are Detroiters, or minorities for that matter, so dependent on straight-party voting in a way that uneducated rural Republicans aren’t? This argument seems like an excuse for Democrats to favor better democracy, unless, of course, it may somehow infringe on their power. I think getting rid of straight-ticket voting would be good for all, and encourage citizens to possibly take voting more seriously.
       —Brandon    Nov. 7 '04 - 01:59PM    #
  20. Brandon,

    The issue for Detroit was long lines at the polls discouraging voters in Presidential election years when turnout is high.
       —Chuck    Nov. 7 '04 - 02:27PM    #
  21. Solving the problem of long lines at the polls is a separate issue from the democratic value of straight-ticket voting, or at least it can be. Challenging the straight-ticket option might wake up the Dems to the inequities in the voting infrastructure between wealthy and poor precincts. Apparently, they’ve placed their bet on the label (Democrat), rather than on the principle (democracy).
       —Steve Bean    Nov. 8 '04 - 08:47AM    #