New marijuana laws challenge Farmington Public Safety

How are Farmington Public Safety officers enforcing the State of Michigan’s new recreational marijuana law?

They’re still learning, Director Frank Demers told city council members Monday. Proposal 1, which allows users to grow up to 12 plants, hold up to 2.5 ounces, and keep up to 10 ounces of marijuana in their homes, went into effect December 8, 2018.

To put the new rules into perspective, Demers said 2 ounces is equal to about 140 “joints” or marijuana cigarettes. Twelve plants could produce enough for 3,360 joints. So one person could legally carry and store enough marijuana for more than 4,000 joints.

Marijuana paraphernalia possession and sales are also now legal in Michigan, Demers said.

The state law conflicts with federal law, which prohibits marijuana cultivation and use. That can complicate enforcement. For instance, Demers said, officers have been advised to not confiscate any marijuana.

“If we find ourselves in a position where we have to release it, we’re breaking federal law,” he explained.

Prohibitions mirror those for alcohol: consumption or possession by anyone under age 21, driving under the influence, use on school grounds, buses, or correctional facilities. Crimes that were once felonies under state law are now civil infractions or misdemeanors.

“Jail sentences are going away for these possession and delivery cases,” Demers said.

The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office plans to provide additional guidelines in the coming months. Demers said the department has focused on providing
Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) training to help officers more easily identify drivers who are under the influence.

The big question for city officials – one that doesn’t need an immediate answer – is whether to exercise an option to ban recreational marijuana sales. City attorney Beth Saarela said a presentation on the topic will be presented at a future council meeting.

Demers cited these concerns:

  • Dispensaries are an all-cash business, which “makes them a very strong attraction for armed robberies and burglaries.” Demers said someone recently broke into a Detroit medical marijuana dispensary by driving a truck through the door.
  • An organization tracking the impacts of marijuana legalization in Colorado noted an increase in Poison Control Center calls due to children eating cookies and other foods infused with marijuana.
  • Colorado also experienced a 23 percent increase in fatal crashes after legalization, with 90 percent of those drivers testing positive for marijuana.
  • Demers noted since the legalization of medical marijuana, the department has received some odor complaints from residents. “It’s a nuisance in neighborhoods,” he said.
  • Home invasions and burglaries may increase as people who don’t want to pay for marijuana try to find it free.

Mayor Steven Schneemann asked Demers to provide an update in 6-9 months, when officials more experience with the new law.