Schuette: Illegal Kalamazoo Charter Amendment Would Lead to Lawsuits, Imply That Marijuana Use is Legal

Contact: John Sellek or Joy Yearout 517-373-8060
Agency: Attorney General

August 19, 2011

LANSING - Attorney General Bill Schuette today said in a letter to Governor Rick Snyder that a proposed City of Kalamazoo charter amendment instructing local police to treat marijuana offenses as the least important violation of law should not be approved because it is in violation of state law and court precedent.  Schuette says the proposed charter amendment would have the practical impact of police not enforcing state law and likely cause lawsuits against the city.

"It is simply unfathomable that we would ask police officers to look the other way when a crime is being committed," said Schuette.  "The amendment is illegal and will send the signal that random marijuana use is acceptable."

In the letter to Governor Snyder, the Attorney General's office recommends that the Governor not approve the charter amendment, as is his option during the charter amendment review process prescribed in state law.  The letter makes clear that the proposed amendment, which was initiated though the petition process and therefore be required to be placed on the ballot for city voters, conflicts with the state law.

The proposed amendment undermines the power of local police to enforce state criminal laws, despite any attempt to limit that authority through a charter provision (Joslin v 14th District Judge, 76 Mich App 90 (1977)).

The analysis also finds that the practical impact of the amendment is likely to be that law enforcement simply does not enforce state law that makes it illegal for non-medicial marijuana patients and caregivers to be in possession of marijuana.  This concern was also raised by the Kalamazoo City Attorney earlier this year when he said that passage of the petition could be seen as an attempt to extend the immunization from prosecution and law enforcement currently enjoyed by lawful medical marijuana patients and caregivers to the general population.

Schuette went on to note that if the proposed charter amendment is passed by local voters, the revision could indeed be challenged in court based on the inconsistencies between the amended charter and state law.