Marijuana Drug Charges in Grand Rapids in a State of Flux
In November 2012, voters in Grand Rapids approved a city charter amendment that essentially decriminalized the possession of use and marijuana within the city of limits of Grand Rapids…sort of. The charter amendment makes the possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil infraction (the equivalent of a traffic ticket) instead of a misdemeanor. The civil infractions carry a penalty of $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second offense and $100 for a third offense. While the amendment created a civil infraction, it does not prohibit the City of Grand Rapids from elevating a violation to a misdemeanor. The city prosecutor, if she wanted to, could still charge the misdemeanor offense under state law. However, since the law has gone into effect on May 1, 2013, we are aware of no cases where the City of Grand Rapids charged a misdemeanor where a civil infraction was also appropriate.
While this charter amendment dissuades City of Grand Rapids Police Officers from charging individuals in possession of small amounts of marijuana with misdemeanors, it does not apply to Kent County Sheriff Deputies or Michigan State Police officers. Kent County Sheriff Deputies and Michigan State Police Officers enforce state laws. The Grand Rapids charter amendment does not supersede the current state law (MCL 333.7403), which provides that the possession of recreation marijuana is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2000.00 fine. This law remains in effect. It is still illegal under state (and federal) law to possess and use marijuana. The charter amendment simply enables the City of Grand Rapids to issue a civil infraction for marijuana use or possession instead of charging criminal misdemeanors. The net result of all of this is that the difference between facing a civil infraction and a $25 fine or a misdemeanor and up to a year in jail may come down to something as simple as what type of police officer or deputy found you with the marijuana.
The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office opposes the decriminalization of the possession and use of marijuana within the City of Grand Rapids and continues to take an aggressive approach to prosecuting marijuana use and possession within the Kent County – including within the city limits of Grand Rapids. The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office has challenged the charter amendment in the Kent County Circuit Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals. Both the Kent County Circuit Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals have ruled in favor of the charter amendment and rebuffed the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office efforts to overturn the law. However, the Kent County Prosecutor’s office intends to appeal these decisions to the Michigan Supreme Court and is continuing its efforts to overturn the charter amendment.
Bottom line – it is still illegal to use and possess recreation marijuana in Grand Rapids. While the charter amendment provides the City of Grand Rapids with an alternative to criminal charges, it does not make it “legal” to use or possess recreational marijuana. More importantly, the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office does not share the City of Grand Rapids “enlightened” approach. If you use or possess recreational marijuana anywhere in Kent County, you are still susceptible to criminal charges and arrest. Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law, LLC will continue to monitor the legal journey of the Grand Rapids charter amendment as well landscape of all marijuana laws.
If you or someone you know has been charge with any marijuana or controlled substance offense, please contact the attorneys at Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law, PLLC for a free consultation. (616) 458-5500 or (231) 924-8700. We are here to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.