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Michigan city decriminalizes pot

Kalamazoo, Michigan, city commissioners have agreed to make marijuana use a misdemeanor among adults. This means people caught with a small amount of pot will no longer face a serious drug charge.

The newly approved city ordinance provides for a misdemeanor charge for people 21 and older who have less than an ounce of marijuana in their possession. Those found guilty could be fined up to $100 or sentenced to fewer than 93 days in jail. First-time offenders who enter a guilty plea could instead serve probation and not have the offense on their record as a conviction.

The commissioners' action follows the passage of a ballot initiative approved by Kalamazoo voters that authorized police to make marijuana enforcement a low priority. It is the only Michigan city to take such action thus far.

Previously, even users of small amounts faced prosecution under state law, which calls for a fine of as much as $2,000 and up to a year of jail time.

City commissioners said such an ordinance will give police the freedom to respond to more serious crimes in a more timely fashion. The city attorney said marijuana arrests for small-time users took police officers off the street and required the police department to test the marijuana and use its resources on cataloging it as evidence and such.

The city attorney said the ordinance will allow the police department to better use its resources and staff. In a memo he wrote to city commissioners, the city attorney said not having to process drug suspects and pay for lab and evidence costs will save money. Additionally, it will allow officers to respond to calls instead of processing suspects on minor drug charges.

Regardless if minor drug offenders are persecuted or not, with this ordinance, police officers will be able to spend more time on the streets, arresting other serious offenders.

Source: The Raw Story, "Marijuana officially decriminalized in Kalamazoo, Michigan," Stephen C. Webster, Oct. 2, 2012

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