Medical marijuana proponent makes peace with city attorney

March 31, 2005

Ann Schimke, Ann Arbor News

The leader of the campaign that led to Ann Arbor's medical marijuana amendment last November said he has no more quarrel with City Attorney Stephen Postema.

Chuck Ream, a Scio Township trustee, was angered by Postema's comments after the amendment to decriminalize marijuana use when recommended by a physician passed with 74 percent of the vote, but said he was happy with the outcome of a January meeting with Postema and other city officials.

'My quarrel with him is over,' said Ream this week. 

After the election, Postema said 27-year-old case law dictates that city officials can refer complaints for prosecution under state law even though it would be contrary to the city's new charter language. Police Chief Dan Oates also said in a written statement he had directed his officers to continue enforcement of all marijuana sale and possession offenses as they did before the vote.

Ream praised what he called compromise language written by Postema after the January meeting about the city's stance on medical marijuana.

The language, which was in a letter to a reporter for a local publication, said that city police and the city attorney's office retain some discretion in prosecuting marijuana cases.

'The very nature of this discretion is that each case is decided on its own facts,' wrote Postema. 'However, the compassionate concerns underlying the charter amendment are concerns that are certainly understood by the police and the city attorney's office as this discretion is exercised.'

Postema said this week that he didn't view the statements about discretion as compromise language. He did say the January meeting helped resolve a misunderstanding about how the city planned to approach any medical marijuana cases, which he said rarely, if ever, occur.

He said proponents of the charter amendment thought the city attorney's office had unfairly attacked the ballot initiative after the election and that the city was changing its priorities to come down on people who used marijuana for medical reasons. Postema said the city wasn't changing its priorities and that he understood the concerns of the amendment's advocates.

Ream said his goal now is to urge Mayor John Hieftje and City Council to take small steps that will allow more discussion about medical marijuana use. He said they could start a subcommittee on the issue or take other interim steps that won't cost money or get the city in trouble with State Attorney General Mike Cox.

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