Officials say pot's still a priority

November 16, 2005

Vanessa McCray, Traverse City record-Eagle

 TRAVERSE CITY - Sixty-three percent of the voters in the last city election think medical marijuana use should be Traverse City's "lowest law enforcement priority," but no one should light up soon.
      City police and Grand Traverse County's prosecutor said charges will continue to be brought against those who use the drug for medical purposes.
      On Nov. 8, city voters passed a proposal 1,594 to 925 that didn't legalize marijuana but called for its medical use to be the "lowest law enforcement priority. "
      "We will continue to charge according to state law...," Prosecutor Alan Schneider said. "I have to, I have no choice."
      State law prohibits possession and use of marijuana, and police officers have "a duty to enforce and uphold all laws" of the state, city attorney W. Peter Doren wrote in a legal opinion dated Monday.
      Doren also said voters and the city commission can't "establish priorities" for city departments.
      That authority rests only with the city manager, he wrote.
      Proposal advocate Laura Barber still thinks the vote will encourage law enforcement to "use proper discretion" when it comes to charging patients.
      "They are sworn to uphold the law," she said. "That is their job, and we aren't asking them to do anything but their job."
      The success of the proposal makes a "philosophical" but not legal statement, city commissioner Scott Hardy said. He agreed the city needs to enforce state marijuana laws but said the vote shows city residents are "sympathetic" to patients who use marijuana to control pain and symptoms.
      "What they wanted was a statement by the citizens of this community that we understand the difference between the medical and recreational use of marijuana," Hardy said.


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