The controversial enforcement plan, which amended the city charter and was approved by Grand Rapids voters last November, makes it a civil infraction to be caught with a small amount of marijuana.
Under enforcement rules given to Grand Rapids Police by City Manager Greg Sundstrom, instead of being arrested, a person found with 2.5 ounces of marijuana or less would have to pay a fine and police would confiscate the marijuana, unless the person was also found breaking some other state law, like felony drunk driving or armed robbery.
The one exception would be if officers find someone with less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana and they have at least four prior convictions involving controlled substances. In that case, Grand Rapids' city attorney would make the call on whether that person would get a ticket or if their case would be handed over to the county prosecutor.
If someone is found with more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana, the case would be turned over to the Kent County prosecutor.
Two tickets were issued by 6 p.m. Wednesday under the new rules. One of those was issued during what at first appeared to be a routine traffic stop on Stevens Street near Ionia Avenue SW. Police brought in a dog to search the vehicle, at which point the situation changed.
"You're witnessing history here," GRPD Sgt. Mark Maycroft said. "It's a new day."
Police found an ounce of marijuana in the car.
The person who got the ticket declined to talk to 24 Hours News 8. He was taken into police custody for other minor crimes.
Police officers told 24 Hour News 8 what they are doing on the street is essentially what they've always done. The real difference is in how the violation is being handled in the system.
"It doesn't change a whole lot how we enforce it. Police officers are still going to be enforcing the law," said Maycroft.
Maycroft and the city are warning people not to get too relaxed. Even though a small amount is no longer a crime, marijuana remains illegal.
"Don't walk down the street smoking marijuana, 'cause you're going to get stopped by the police and you're going to get a citation," Maycroft said.
The city said the charter amendment doesn't cover manufacturing marijuana, maintaining a drug house or possession with the intent to deliver marijuana. Grand Rapids police would still make arrests in those cases under state law.
The enforcement plan itself is controversial to some supporters of the charter amendment. That's because the original plan passed by voters prohibited Grand Rapids police from sending the Kent County Prosecutor cases involving possession, control, use, or gift of marijuana.However, Grand Rapids city leaders came up with their own enforcement plan that they feel is more in line with what voters intended.
"We have been preparing for a few months with training and getting ready for trying to understand all of the potential outcomes. We still don't have a court decision. We think we have enough information that we received in court that it's time to proceed," said Sundstrom.
Last week, Judge Paul Sullivan signaled he will likely back the decriminalization amendment in the suit. His formal ruling is expected Thursday.
Once Sullivan issues an official ruling, it is possible the losing side could appeal their case to the Michigan Court of Appeals.
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