Judge puts hold on pot cases after Prop 1 passes

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The day after Michigan’s election, a man and two women appeared before a Kent County judge for smoking what will soon be legal.

Even though the recreational marijuana law hasn’t taken effect, the judge delayed the cases, sending them back to the prosecutor.

On Tuesday, the day that a majority of voters said yes to legal marijuana, a 40-year-old Grand Rapids man found himself in the Kent County jail, arrested on an old warrant for using in 2017. He appeared Wednesday before 63rd District Judge Jeffrey O’Hara through a jail video feed.

“Charged with use of the controlled substance marijuana,” O’Hara told him.

The judge saw another woman, also arrested on an old warrant.

“On March 21, 2018, at 60th and Eastern Avenue, Gaines Township, Kent County, Michigan, that you did use the controlled substance marijuana, contrary to Michigan law,” O’Hara described the count against her.

She was facing up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $100 and the possibility of losing her driver’s license.

The judge also saw a 19-year-old woman on the same charge.

“I was in a car with a few people and my boyfriend at the time had weed on him,” the 19-year-old told 24 Hour News 8. “We weren’t doing anything with it, but it was there, the cops charged us with use, but I wasn’t even using it.”

24 Hour News 8 is not identifying the defendants because what they’re accused of doing will be legal in about a month, when the law is expected to go into effect.

At least one of the three was planning to plead guilty and probably face a fine. But the judge adjourned the cases.

“Given the fact that the voters voted yesterday regarding the issues of marijuana, the court is going to enter a plea of not guilty in regard to this matter, and I’ll have you speak with an attorney and a prosecutor, and we’ll go from there,” he told one of the accused.

The 19-year-old was pleasantly surprised.

“I knew that the law had passed yesterday, but I didn’t know that they would take it into consideration so soon. I mean, it’s only been a day,” she said.

She hopes it leads to a dismissal.

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said it’s not clear what his office will do with the pending pot cases.

“I think it’s going to be left up to each county’s prosecutor,” Becker said. “I’m going to take a look at our cases, possessions and uses and what we’re going to do. I haven’t made a final decision, but it’s under consideration.”

Even if they’re convicted, Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer says she’s considering expunging minor pot convictions.

Michigan voters on Tuesday gave pot their blessing, 56 to 44 percent, despite dire warnings from law enforcement that it would lead to deadly crashes and marijuana on playgrounds.

Supporters say it will raise about $130 million a year in taxes for roads, schools and local governments.

Legalization isn’t expected to go into effect until early December, after the state’s Board of Canvassers confirms the results.

After that, if you’re 21 or older, you will be allowed to have, use and grow marijuana, though it could take two years to set up retail sales. You can carry up to 2.5 ounces, keep up to 10 ounces at home and grow up to 12 plants in your home for yourself. But that doesn’t mean you can light one up while walking down the sidewalk. It’ll be treated like open alcohol, which is also illegal.

It will likely mean fewer people clogging up the courts.

In Grand Rapids alone, where voters decriminalized some marijuana offenses in 2012, nearly 6,700 marijuana civil infractions have been handed out over the last five-plus years, most with $25 fines.

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