Student-backed marijuana decriminalization proposal could be on November ballot

Mount Pleasant voters could see a student-backed proposition calling for the citywide decriminalization of marijuana on the November ballot.

Student Advocates for Medical/Recreational Cannabis have procured enough petition signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. The registered student organization at Central Michigan University got all the necessary signatures a week shy of their deadline.

"It’s a step in the right direction," said Ian Elliott, president of SAMRC and a Cheboygan sophomore. "Any policy change that will promote the mission of realizing a responsible cannabis policy is good."

The group worked all spring and part of the summer to obtain over 500 signatures for their ballot initiative. The proposed city ordinance would decriminalize marijuana up to a certain amount for adults 21 years old or older.

Elliott said he hopes the initiative would free up some tax payer money that would go toward charging those caught with marijuana.

"It bogs down the court system," he said. "This is saving tax payers some unnecessary expenditures."

It's unclear whether this new ordinance would affect CMU's campus policies on marijuana. Elliott said he believes it would not because CMU is a federal entity.

"Because CMU is federally funded, they don’t necessarily have to follow city ordinances," he said.

Nancy Ridley, Mount Pleasant's newly-hired city manager, said the city discussed the proposal when the RSO first started gathering signatures in February.

"I know CMU had some concerns," she said. "They have to comply with federal policies. There was some uncertainty if this would apply on campus."

The next step in the process is getting Mount Pleasant's city officials to sign off on the proposal for the November election.

"The way the process is supposed to work is the city approving it," Elliott said. "We've not gotten the actual sign-off from the city. It's not on the November ballot, yet."

Ridley said the city is currently in the process of verifying the signatures.

"We’re very close to doing that," she said. "We then send the language of the proposal to the Governor's office and the Attorney General's office for approval. Then it gets submitted for the next election."

Ridley said she believes the group is on target for getting the proposal on the November ballot.

Elliott said that aside from furthering the discussion on legalization, it encourages students to get out and vote.

"We want students to be politically involved," he said. "What better way to give your opinion and get involved than to vote? We're looking forward to seeing students get out there to vote."

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