OAKLAND COUNTY (WWJ) -- Among the issues set to go before area voters in next week's primary elections -- at least in two local communities -- is the decriminalization of marijuana.
To his supporters, Tim Beck is known as the "godfather" of marijuana in Michigan, having successfully led the state-wide initiative five years ago to legalize the use of medical marijuana.
Beck now focuses on one community at a time with voters in Hazel Park and Oak Park deciding whether or not to make possessing less than an ounce of marijuana legal.
"We're using the ballot process to get the attention of the political class in the state," Beck said. "The typical, average voter -- if there is such a thing -- wants police resources focused on real crime."
Ann Arbor House democrat Jeff Irwin, who is the author of a state-wide decriminalization bill, which continues to languish in Lansing, agrees with Beck's standpoint.
"If we want to stop the criminal violence that is driving a lot of the trouble that we see on the streets here in Michigan, we need to drive some of that economic activity into the light and into a legitimate space where it can be properly regulated," Irwin said.
Beck and his supporters have successfully pushed the decriminalization of up to an ounce of marijuana in nine communities across Michigan, including Detroit.
"We're not advocating anything radical," Beck said. "Sixteen other states treat small-time marijuana possession as the equivalent as a traffic ticket.
"Ultimately, I believe marijuana is going to be legal."
Irwin's House Bill 4623 would look to make Michigan the 17th state on the same list.
"I'm not despondent about the progress that my bill has made so far," Irwin said. "Even though we haven't earned a committee here, sentiments on this bill are changing very quickly."
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