Decriminalization of marijuana targeted in suburb

GROSSE POINTE PARK, Mich. (AP) – Supporters of marijuana decriminalization see the Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe Park as a possible tipping point in the debate over the drug in Michigan.

Safer Michigan Coalition, a Detroit-based nonprofit coordinating petition drives around Michigan, collected hundreds of signatures Grosse Pointe Park to get a proposal on the November ballot. As many as 18 other Michigan communities could see votes this year.

Coalition co-founder Tim Beck noted to the Detroit Free Press that Grosse Pointe Park is relatively affluent and conservative.

“Frankly, Grosse Pointe Park is an experiment with us because we’ve never taken on this economic and cultural demographic before,” said Beck, 62, a retired health insurance executive who said he has spent $150,000 to bankroll many of the marijuana votes.

The ballot question would amend the Grosse Pointe Park city charter, stripping it of its current ban on using marijuana for any reason.

The effort, however, has received some resistance from city officials.

“It’s unfortunate that our community has been targeted as a test case for this ballot proposal,” said City Councilwoman Laurie Arora. “As a councilwoman, mother and resident, this is not what I want our community to be known for.”

Since 2010, voters have passed ballot proposals to ease marijuana laws in nine communities across the state, including Ferndale, Jackson and Lansing last year. Voters in Hazel Park and Oak Park are expected to take up the issue Aug. 5. Other votes are expected Nov. 4.

On her way into the library, Tricia Hexter, 40, of Grosse Pointe Park said she planned to “listen to both sides” before voting on the issue in her community. She signed the petition because “it’s important that everybody has a voice,” Hexter said.