State objects to Lansing’s pot petition

By Andy Balaskovitz
City Pulse file photo

Attorney General’s Office and Gov. Rick Snyder say Lansing’s marijuana ballot question would violate state law. City attorney approves it for ballots anyway.

Thursday, Sept. 19 — A marijuana legalization proposal will remain on the November ballot in Lansing, despite a notice from the state saying the City Charter amendment would violate state law, City Clerk Chris Swope said today.

The Attorney General’s Office notified Gov. Rick Snyder on Sept. 10 that Lansing’s proposed City Charter amendment related to marijuana “is not consistent” with the state’s Home Rule Cities Act. The state must review local ballot proposals.

Snyder responded in a letter to the city on Monday that he agreed: “Because of the inconsistency with state law identified in the attached letter from the Attorney General’s Office, I do not approve the proposed revised charter amendment.”

Swope said the City Attorney’s Office has reviewed the matter and told him today to keep it on the ballot. He said disseminating absentee ballots was delayed as a result of the review.

City Attorney Janene McIntyre could not immediately be reached for comment.

The proposed amendment would add a chapter to the charter that says: “Nothing in the Code of Ordinances shall apply to the use, possession, or transfer of less than 1 ounce of marijuana, on private property, by a person who has attained the age of 21 years.”

In its letter to Snyder, the Attorney General’s Office pointed out a number of problems.

“Regardless of whether the proposed amendment is approved by the voters, marijuana will remain a controlled substance under state and federal law. City law enforcement will retain the authority to enforce criminal laws, without regard to any provision in the charter,” wrote chief legal counsel Matthew Schneider.

Schneider also wrote that the amendment would violate an existing city ordinance that prohibits “any person from obstructing or resisting law enforcement officials” from performing their duties.

“No city charter provision ‘shall conflict with or contravene the provisions of any general law of the state,’’ the AG letter says, citing a section of the Home Rule Cities Act.

Moreover, the letter says the ballot language is “inaccurate because it is (sic) does not inform the voters that the proposed amendment conflicts with state law. The ballot language also does not inform the voters that state law will control regardless of whether the proposed amendment is adopted.”

However, the AG’s Office points out that proposed amendments submitted by petitions “shall be submitted to the city’s voters for approval — even if the Governor has declined to approve the charter amendment.”