GR Marijuana Ordinance Restraining Order Extended

Posted at 3:42 PM, Jan 09, 2013

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids marijuana ordinance was debated in court Wednesday.

The hearing only lasted a couple of hours, but the official decision won’t come for a couple of weeks.

So the judge decided to extend the restraining order, blocking the Grand Rapids marijuana ordinance from taking effect.

The group, “Decriminalize GR,” made a successful run at getting enough signatures to get their measure on the November 2012 ballot.

They wanted Grand Rapids voters to decide whether or not illegal marijuana possession should be made a civil infraction instead of a criminal offense.

More than 58 percent of voters checked “yes.”

However, the Kent County prosecutor’s office said not so fast, after the election. He said the language of the ordinance is too broad and lacks restrictions.

So, in early December, the Kent County prosecutor’s office filed a lawsuit to stop the ordinance from taking affect.

In court Wednesday, Judge Paul Sullivan said it’s an interesting case that he’s glad to preside over.

The prosecution’s first argument is that the city cannot make marijuana possession a civil infraction because it’s already a criminal offense under state law.

He said the city’s law must comply with the state.

Kent County chief appellate attorney Timothy McMorrow argued for the prosecution.

“The second thing is, is that telling police departments that they cannot advise the prosecutor of a violation of state law for the possession, sale, use, or gift of marijuana really does interfere with the prosecutor’s constitutional prerogatives,” McMorrow said.

On the other side are the Grand Rapids city attorney and the lawyer for the group “Decriminalize Grand Rapids.”

City attorney Catherine Mish said after voters showed their support for the ordinance, her office contacted the city of Ann Arbor which has a similar law.

She said Ann Arbor offered advice, and she believes Grand Rapids’ law is fine as written.

“The prosecutor is not in any danger of suffering irreparable harm, that’s what the prosecutor has to prove in order to win a preliminary injunction from a court,” Mish said.

“I don’t think that harm is truly in existence here in this case. I think that the city made a very strong argument and the prosecutor failed to carry a burden of proof,” she added.

No matter what Judge Sullivan rules two weeks from now, both sides say they’ll have to read the judge’s opinion before deciding whether or not to file an appeal.

The lawyer for Decriminalize GR, Jack Hoffman, said he would likely file an appeal if the decision isn’t in their favor.

The judge is expected to make a decision the week of Monday, January 21st.