Does Detroit’s Proposal M Mean that Existing Laws Governing Pot are “Up in Smoke?” Not By a Long Shot.

Does Detroit’s Proposal…

The recent passage of state marijuana decriminalization proposals by voters in Colorado and Washington has attracted national attention, placing important federalism questions back in the spotlight. But did you know that Detroit voters recently approved their own ballot proposal – by a decisive 65% to 35% margin – to partially immunize certain marijuana use/possession from prosecution under a longstanding Detroit ordinance?

Proposal M afforded voters the choice to amend a Detroit controlled substances ordinance to exempt adults, 21 years of age or older, from criminal prosecution for the use or possession of less than one ounce of marijuana on private property in the City of Detroit. While the passage of this proposal was widely celebrated by pro-marijuana interest groups and other advocates both locally and nationwide, the effect of its passage will likely be largely symbolic. That is because amendment of the city ordinance cannot serve to displace existing state and federal laws that criminalize the use and possession of marijuana; indeed, even if this measure is upheld, it would only provide protection from prosecution under the specific city ordinance at issue. In other words, the amendment would not in any way preclude law enforcement from prosecuting an adult for possession of marijuana under an existing state or federal criminal statute.

Nonetheless, the passage of this proposal, and similar measures in other states, raises interesting legal questions, including how existing drug laws will be enforced, and whether such measures create impermissible conflicts with related state and federal laws. It is likely that at least some of these questions will need to be resolved with the help of the courts.

One thing is for sure, however: passage of Proposal M will not impair a Detroit-based employer’s ability to implement and enforce workplace drug policies, including prohibitions on employee drug use at the workplace.

Please contact Wright Beamer with any questions you may have regarding creating, implementing, and enforcing workplace drug policies.

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