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Police Plan Marijuana Arrests Despite Vote Decriminalizing Possession

FLINT (WWJ/AP) - Flint police and Michigan State Police troopers that patrol the city plan to arrest people for marijuana possession despite a vote on a city ballot proposal to decriminalize marijuana in some cases.

About 57 percent of ballots counted as of Wednesday were in favor of the proposal to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana by those 19 or older. The city said in a statement, however, that the proposal is "symbolic in nature" as officials defer to state and federal law, which still classify marijuana as an illegal drug.

"We're still police officers and we're still empowered to enforce the laws of the state of Michigan and the United States," said Flint police Chief Alvern Lock. "We're still going to enforce the laws as we've been enforcing them."

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, who handles Flint and the surrounding area, said his office will continue to review cases that are brought to prosecutors.

Brian Morrissey of Coalition for a Safer Flint, the group that gathered signatures to get the initiative on the ballot, said he's disappointed with the city's decision.

"If the city police want to follow state law rather than city law, then maybe the state should be paying their salary," Morrissey said.

Similar ballot measures in Detroit and Grand Rapids got voter support Tuesday, which would allow adults over age 21 to possess less than an ounce of marijuana on personal property without criminal prosecution.

In Detroit, however, "Proposal M" doesn't have the support of City Council members, who say the city residents shouldn't be expecting them to draft an ordinance in support of the measure since "the proposal is illegal."

In Ypsilanti, residents voted to redirect police efforts away from enforcing laws against marijuana use in the city. Ypsilanti Police Chief Amy Walker said her police department will devote its time to more serious issues.

"The present state of the marijuana law in Michigan is in flux," Walker told "The Ypsilanti Police Department takes all crime seriously, and we are under oath to enforce the law. Because of limited resources, we must devote the most effort to the most serious crimes against people and property."

Michigan voters in 2008 approved the use of marijuana for medical reasons, but parts of the law are being challenged in court.

In Kalamazoo on Tuesday, voters approved a charter amendment to establish medical marijuana dispensaries by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. The initiative calls for a licensing system to regulate dispensaries, the owners of which would pay an annual $3,000 registration fee. However, the legality of this amendment rides on a supreme court case.

MORE: Voters In Michigan Cities Back Marijuana Issues

Detroit Council: Marijuana Ballot Measure A Waste Of Time

TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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