'We The People?' — Voters Act To Reduce Municipal Marijuana Penalties, Cops Have Other Ideas

Two municipal election results from yesterday ought to come as no surprise.
In the cities of Kalamazoo, Michigan and Tacoma, Washington, municipal voters overwhelmingly favored local ballot measures to mandate that the criminal enforcement of cannabis possession offenses be law enforcement’s “lowest priority.”
In Tacoma, voters decided in favor of Initiative 1, which states that minor marijuana offenses shall be “the lowest enforcement priority of the City of Tacoma.”
In Kalamazoo, voters approved a similar ‘deprioritization’
measure
by a margin of almost 2 to 1.
Given that one out of two Americans now favor outright legalizing the adult use of the marijuana plant, and given that voters have consistently voted in favor of similar ‘deprioritization’ measures before (e.g., Seattle, 2003; Oakland, 2004; Columbia, Missouri, 2004; Santa Cruz, 2006;Denver, 2007; etc.) last night’s results are hardly surprising.
Equally unsurprising is the response from local law enforcement, whose public comments once again belie the myth that ‘police just enforce the laws; police don’t make the laws.’

Marijuana amendment will have little effect on law enforcement in Kalamazoo, chief says
via The Kalamazoo Gazette
Little, if anything, about how his officers do their job will change, Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said Wednesday, less than a day after city residents voted to make possession of a small amount of marijuana the lowest priority for police.
“I certainly respect the democratic process,” Hadley said. “It certainly gives you an insight to what some of the voters are thinking in terms of their views on marijuana. However, it really has little to no impact on how we operate at Public Safety.”
The ballot measure, which amends the city charter, was overwhelmingly endorsed by voters Tuesday, with 65 percent giving their approval.
The ballot question voters approved Tuesday was: “Shall the Kalamazoo City Charter be amended such that the use and/or consumption of one ounce or less of usable marijuana by adults 21 years or older is the lowest priority of law enforcement personnel?”
Hadley reiterated Wednesday what he has said previously about the ballot measure, which is that it will have no effect on his agency because the city charter only addresses ordinances and marijuana possession and use are illegal under state and federal law, which will continue to be enforced.
“The charter amendment only has an impact on city ordinances, which we do not have any existing city ordinances relative to the possession or use of marijuana and we still have every obligation to enforce state and federal laws,” the chief said.

For further analysis on law enforcement’s resistance to marijuana law reform, please see NORML Outreach Coordinator Russ Belville’s excellent, archived commentary on The Huffington Post here.

73 thoughts

  1. [Editor’s note: Guns? Disobedience? The ballot is more powerful than the bullet….people and votes for reform is what is needed, not violence that will beget more state violence, which beget more violence, etc….
    Did it take guns and violence to end Alcohol Prohibition or angry mothers and an organized vote?]
    It didn’t take 75 fucking years to end alcohol prohibition.
    [Editor’s note: It will take 150 years to legalize if yahoos start taking up arms simply so they can smoke cannabis. Cannabis remains illegal certainly not because citizens need to shoot law enforcement for enforcing bad laws, it remains illegal because well under 1% of cannabis consumers are involved in cannabis law reform. Violence begets violence and cannabis consumers should never be violent in pursuit of more peaceful laws.]

  2. In a year or two there will be another issue on the ballot, this one asking for increased funds for the city’s police department. They may get turned down.
    If you “serve” the people, you’re dependent on the people. And if you’re dependent on the people, you better listen to them because they can put you out of a job. Besides, isn’t that what democracy is all about?

  3. All of you blasting Jeff Hadley missed the point entirely. He didn’t mean they were going to ignore the mandate….he meant that enforcing the law for small amounts of marijuana ALREADY IS a low priority. Therefore, the there will be no change in how they deal with it. Good grief.

  4. We are all angry, frustrated, and disillusioned by the political system; but, still peaceful at this point. I do not think that our vote is doing it for us due to all the changes made to the electorial college and redistricting we are subjected to. Every vote counts? That was then. Now, they have redrawn the maps so that they will virtually have control over our votes for MANY years to come. We need to REFORM our political system. Go back to Popular vote, so that they cannot absorb our votes into meaningless paper. What we have now is NOT a democratic system – it is manipulation of its people by use of laws which are changed in back rooms and disguised so that half the people don’t even know what they actually mean. They use the media to lie – all of them – corporations, banks, political parties. There is NO truth in advertising – where the heck did that go? Dear Editor – thank you for keeping a lid on those of us that want immediate action – Revolution! BUT, please remember that our votes are not being heard. We cannot reverse what they have done – not for decades. We are the American People and we are not like our Canadian neighbors. Our principles have always been that Revolution makes change – NOT Evolution. Their main argument is VOTE – WE DO! It just doesn’t count nor does it matter. The more they dismiss us, shoot us, disarm us, violate our rights, the more we will fight. I know that we can’t support that attitude; but, you tell a veteran who has risked his life for our democracy to come back home to a country that manipulates HIS vote and turns its back on him — that he must sit still and watch our American Dream turn into a Capitalist venture – that HE can’t raise his fist to defend what we believe in……..It will come to pass if no one takes up arms — we will sit and watch the fall of the American Empire. Least we all still believe in the UNITED States of America. These jokers that represent us (lol), vote for their own payraises, benefits, perks, pensions – they secure their own; but, take ours away — Every meeting we conduct should START with “I pledge allegiance to the flag” and end with “God Bless America”. We Are the American people and those that do not agree with our particular interest must be shown that it is MORE than our corner of the building – it’s for ALL of US.

  5. Why is anybody surprised by this?
    The police benefit greatly, in both money and power, from the war on drugs. It is their secret gravy train.
    Fact: You can never convince a dishonest man to derail his own gravy train.

  6. Janis says:
    I know that we can’t support that attitude; but, you tell a veteran who has risked his life for our democracy to come back home to a country that manipulates HIS vote and turns its back on him — that he must sit still and watch our American Dream turn into a Capitalist venture – that HE can’t raise his fist to defend what we believe in……..It will come to pass if no one takes up arms — we will sit and watch the fall of the American Empire
    EXACTLY.
    [Editor’s note: Exactly stupid to advocate for violence to bring an end to Cannabis Prohibition. The idea of citizens violently revolting against the government to legally smoke cannabis is ridiculous. The ballot is more powerful and lasting than bullets fired by angry citizens who will only draw 10X the fire power from the government to their deaths, not their political success.]

  7. [Editor’s note: Exactly stupid to advocate for violence to bring an end to Cannabis Prohibition. The idea of citizens violently revolting against the government to legally smoke cannabis is ridiculous. The ballot is more powerful and lasting than bullets fired by angry citizens who will only draw 10X the fire power from the government to their deaths, not their political success.]
    Your opinion.
    75 years of passive resistance has so far = FAILURE.
    Eventually people will get fed up. Perhaps the DEA will pull a Columbia Missouri on someone they know one day, someone they know who is unarmed. Someone who died because they had no way to defend themselves against an intruder enforcing an unjust law that has been allowed to ruin the lives of millions of people over the past 75 fucking years.
    Like your views on Ron Paul, you think you know it all and that only your point of view is right. I think you are in for a rude awakening, as my mother used to say.
    [Editor’s note: Hard to know what makes you look more foolish, believing in armed violence against the government to bring about peace or believing that such an unpopular and old politician could ever win the GOP nomination, and then a general election.
    In either case, you’re entirely wrong and neither will happen.]

  8. The idea of a democracy and the right to vote has little to no meaning anymore. We DO vote, it just doesn’t matter. They have redrawn the districts to one parties advantage and it will take decades to undo. While this might not impact the vote for a President, it DOES impact on the Senate/Representatives we elect. There is too much supporting data out there for me to attach. They continually try to manipulate us for their own end. The fight to legalize marijuana is just one of MANY thorns in our side. Alone, it is NOT worth one single death as any other dispute with our government. Unfortunately, there are just too many things wrong with our political system, justice, and enforcement, no jobs, no health insurance, no home left – for us not to be prepared. It’s not just our corner of the building (Marijuana), it’s the whole that we are resisting. It’s the Whole that we fight for. At 62, I do not pretend that I can take up arms against the gov’t. Remember; however, just how this country started and remember those that have died for OUR Freedom to Assemble, protest, and revolt.
    [Editor’s note: You’re way too jaded as votes do count, they change laws and lives. Tens of millions of Americans cannabis consumers enjoy freer lives because citizens organized the vote to reform Cannabis Prohibition laws.
    Undoubtedly voting for alternatives to prohibition laws in cities/states works and is continuing to erode public support in Congress for the failed policy.
    With well under 1% of cannabis consumers involved in cannabis law reform efforts, a reefer ‘revolt’ is right around the corner if more and more supporters of reform simply employ the levers of power availed–peacefully and effectively.]

  9. [Editor’s note: Hard to know what makes you look more foolish, believing in armed violence against the government to bring about peace or believing that such an unpopular and old politician could ever win the GOP nomination, and then a general election.
    In either case, you’re entirely wrong and neither will happen.]
    Foolish? Who’s gonna look foolish when the DEA breaks down YOUR door on an erroneous tip. Your condecending attitude of anyone who disagrees with you is gonna bite you in the ass one day. Do all the mods at NORML march lockstep to your agenda?
    Entirely wrong? Well, you have a right to your minority opinion.
    [Editor’s note: The DEA does not pursue individual cannabis consumers (if you’re in the ‘biz’ of growing, moving or selling large amounts of cannabis for profit, you might get a visit from the feds; however over 98% of all cannabis arrests are from our local cops), but trying to scare people into believing that the feds kick down doors of consumers and then the consumer therefore has the right to kill the DEA agents is grasping for the rationale to kill others…and certainly does not promote sane or responsible reasons to legalize cannabis.
    Promoting violence against the government to legalize cannabis is immorally stupid and will not be promoted on NORML’s webpage by frustrated and angry citizens. Period. Posts that encourage or sanction violence will be highlighted as the OPPOSITE of what reformers are achieving and/or deleted.]

  10. The mere fact that anyone could believe that violence is the only way to get our Govt to listen to reason is an example of just how badly our Govt is performing it’s job! Most people in this country to do seem to believe that our Govt represents them and that our Govt doesn’t listen to them.
    For that reason, I give our Govt a grade of “F”; a complete failure!
    Mr. Boehner and Mr. Obama, you two are the primary reason that our Govt is failing. I wonder how much longer our civilization can last with leaders like you… My guess is no more than 25 to 50 more years.

  11. Correction to my post #62 (since I can’t edit it once I hit Submit…
    “Most people in this country to do seem to believe”
    should say
    “Most people in this country to don’t seem to believe”
    Bottom Line is: Our current crop of leaders are failing us miserably! I know there are a few rare exceptions but they are in the minority.

  12. If I had an employee who refused to follow orders, I would fire that employee. The mayor needs to be told to either fire the police chief or get fired.

  13. Again, it isn’t that the chief of police is going against the new ordinance. The new ordinance is redundant. Arresting people with less than an ounce of marijuana on them has ALWAYS been the lowest priority for the KDPS. So all the ordinance does is make official what the police were already doing.
    And yes, I DO know what I am talking about. I have lived here for over 30 years and worked for the police department as well as having many friends in the department. They don’t care about some guy with a joint in his pocket. They DO care about the guy on the street corner selling oxycontin and the folks with meth labs in motel rooms or apartments.

  14. #6 Maggie – That email addy for Hopewell is a bad address. Have tried twice. No problem – just goes along with the rest of the spineless politicians that open their mouths and shove their crap down ours. Try sending an email to politicians and see how far you get. If you are not a resident in their district, you can’t even send one. It’s ridiculous how they can “protect” themselves from our comments. Oh; but, we wouldn’t want to flood their mailboxes now, would we? Just another example of how they shut us off and refuse to listen to the people – even if their judgements or rulings are against the entire state.

  15. #67 Janis, It’s a bad address because whoever posted it posted it incorrectly. How is that Bobby’s fault? Bobby is on FaceBook. Contact him there or at his real email: bobby@bobbyhopewell.com
    How DARE you attack someone you have never met and have absolutely NO KNOWLEDGE of? Makes you a major a$$wipe in my book. Why don’t you try minding your own darned business? Those of us who know Bobby and LIVE in Kalamazoo love him. He does a great job as evidenced by the fact that he was just re-elected by an overwhelming majority.
    And turning this forum into an attack on someone who has NOTHING to do with the original story is so low rent. Not to mention the fact that you ALL are attacking Jeff Hadley based on false and erroneous assumptions (you DO know what they say about assuming, don’t you?). Why don’t you try educating yourself before spouting off? Oh wait, that would require a modicum of intelligence and some effort. I see you would much rather just fly your flag of ignorance for all to see.

  16. #68..when you take a public office you assume not only the office; but, are held accountable for your rhetoric. If Bobby Hopewell or Jeff Hadley have disputes with what was in that article, WHERE, oh where is their rebuttal? Sorry; but, you are being paid to work in that office, are you not? I’d say that your opinion is far from impartial. Let them speak for themselves as I have spoken for myself and I will continue to DARE to scrutinize any person(s) that holds an office which has a bearing on my life and how I live it – Thanks for your reply at any rate – you have the right to speak.

  17. Do not expect the individuals holding office to obey the law they demand you obey because they have exempted themselves as being above the law and are only responsive to the ones who sign their paychecks.
    We must be vigilent and smarter than them and not react with dispersions, threats, or violence, as that is the excuse they are attempting to create to justify their adamant crackdown on all marijuana use. Our power was realized in the voting booth. We must hold all elected officials accountable to the voters, and vote out anyone who ignores or condemns the safe and common sense use of marijuana. This issue is essentially about the freedom of an individual to choose what he or she will put or not put into his or her own body; this choice does not belong to the government, but has been hi-jacked by the government- all three branches are guilty- and we the people need to vote it back to the individual.

  18. “It is the duty of every patriot to protect HIS country from it’s government.” Thomas Paine
    “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” Patrick Henry

  19. I was always under the impression that marijuana prohibition laws are not laws. They are statutes, in order for marijuana prohibition to become federal law it would need to be amended to the constitution. Alcohol prohibition was a real federal law as it was ratified and became the 18th amendment, then it was removed by ratifying the 21st amendment. So why do we spend tax money to fund federal agencies to enforce “laws” that are not recognized by Congress the constitution and the majority of the population.
    When the government fears the people, it is liberty. When the people fear the government, it is tyranny. – Thomas Paine

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