On November 5, 2013, 69% of Ferndale residents approved an ordinance that decriminalizes the possession, use, and transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana by someone at least 21 years old on private property. But as with all local ordinances, there is a question about what will actually change in the city.
Similar ordinances have been in place in Ann Arbor since the 1970s. Then last year, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint and Ypsilanti all passed measures that reform marijuana regulation. Similar ordinance passed in Kalamazoo and Jackson this year as well. Many of these ordinances make marijuana use a civil infraction, subject to a fine, rather than completely legalizing possession or use of small quantities.
But the Ferndale Chief of Police doesn’t foresee the ordinance causing any change.
“If our officers are in a place they are legally allowed to be and see someone smoking marijuana they will take action. If we found ourselves in that situation we would use state law.”
Others see these kinds of ordinances as residents’ statements about police priorities and how local police should be spending their limited resources.
Regardless of how the new ordinance is interpreted by police chiefs or local courts, two things are clear:
- It does not change state law.
- It does not apply in public places like sidewalks and parks.
This makes the practical effect of Ferndale’s ordinance relatively small, since police officers have strict constitutional rules for when they are allowed to enter private property. And even when they do have a legal right to be on private property, they can still choose to enforce the state prohibitions on marijuana use. Unless the state bill decriminalizing marijuana becomes law, residents are unlikely to see much change in their ability to use marijuana in Ferndale.