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September 06, 1990 - Image 49

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-09-06

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The Michigan Daily/New Student Edition - Thursday, September 6, 1990 - Page 7
Piece of history goes up in smoke as...
Ann Arbor voters reject legandary $5 pot fine

By Amy Quick
Daily Staff Writer
Despite a "Just Vote No" rally
organized by the National Organiza-
tion for the Reform of Marijuana
Laws (NORML) at this year's an-
nual Hash Bash, and a "high" student
turnout at the city elections, Ann
Arbor's infamous $5 fine for posses-
sion of marijuana suffered defeat last
Proposal B, an amendment to the
city charter that would raise the fine
for possession of marijuana from $5
to between $25 and $500, passed
with a narrow vote of 12,901 to
11,419 during this year's city elec-
tions. The legislation changed the
crime from a civil infraction to a
The city's once-lenient pot law,
4one of the most tolerant in the coun-
try, went into effect in June 1972.
Since then, smokers and activists
have celebrated the law and rallied for
the legalization of marijuana each
April 1, in the Diag, with the annual
Hash Bash.
With the change in the law, stu-
dents may be wondering whether the
days of the Hash Bash are over.
But coordinator of the Ann Arbor
*chapter of NORML Rich Birkett said
"not really."
"NORML won't be promoting
:anything next April 1, but I don't
doubt there will be people on the
Diag on that day. It's a tradition," he
The Hash Bash, first held before
the creation of the now-defunct $5
fine, began as a gathering of smok-
ers celebrating the State of Michi-
Ogan's April 1, 1972 re-definition of
the sentence for possession of mari-
Until that time, possession of
marijuana, a "hard drug," had been
considered a felony punishable with
up to 10 years in prison. But the
Michigan Supreme Court law de-
clared the law unconstitutional.
Possession soon became known
as a misdemeanor, with a penalty of
a maximum one year in jail and a
$1,000 fine. This stands as Michi-
gan's current penalty for possession
of marijuana.

In the early '70s, the City of
Ann Arbor cited possession of mari-
juana as a misdemeanor punishable
with a maximum of 90 days in jail
and $100 fine. However in 1972,
this fine was also declared unconsti-
For a short period, before a new
law could be created, possession of
cannabis was legal.
Because of these changes, some
of the approximate 500 activists at
the 1972 Hash Bash rally used the
opportunity to "Get Out the Vote"
before city elections with hopes of
influencing the voting on the new
Perhaps as a result of the rallying
,students and their strong turnout at
city elections, two members of the
Human Rights Party (HRP) were
elected to city council.
There the HRP proposed that the
fine for marijuana be set at twenty-
five cents. Democrats on the council
negotiated with them, suggesting an
$11 fine. Finally they reached the
compromise of $5, which went into
effect June 1, 1972.
Although Ann Arbor still takes a
lenient stance on pot possession, the
State of Michigan has remained
more strict. Their current state fine
remains a misdemeanor punishable
with up to one year in jail and a
$1,000 fine.
When the city placed Proposal B
on the April 1990 ballot, Michigan
Governor James Blanchard vetoed it,
stating that he objected to a section
which required police officers to
prosecute offenders under the $5 law
instead of harsher state and county
State Attorney General Frank
Kelly advised Blanchard in a letter to
veto the proposal, saying that the
Ann Arbor law was "a violation of
(Michigan's) strong public policy."
Despite Blanchard's protest, the
Ann Arbor city council obtained a
two-thirds majority vote (8 votes)
and overrode his veto.
Community members who sup-
ported Proposal B said that they did
so to show Ann Arbor's youth that
they do not advocate the use of
drugs, and that they are "serious"

Last year thousands of tokers and non-tokers alike visited Ann Arbor for the the Hash Bash. It was slightly modified version of the "get high on life" type of
events so common in high schools. Just one more difference between higher and secondary education.

about stopping drug abuse.
Some of those in opposition to
Proposal B, who were headed by
NORML, felt that marijuana wasn't
as serious a drug as it was made to
be. NORML representative Tom
Harris said, "...the $5 pot law has
never hurt anyone."
Nevertheless, local citizens said
that the law "sends the wrong mes-
sage to juveniles."
NORML has had problems with
the University in the past. In
November of 1989, the University

granted NORML a permit to use a
sound system for their Hash Bash
rally on the Diag. However, in
February, they withdrew the permit
stating reasons as 'past criminal
conduct' which occurred at their ral-
lies, including drinking and smoking
University General Council Elsa
Cole said the reason the University
withdrew the permit was because
administrators wanted to move the
rally to a location other than the
Diag. She said the Diag is "difficult
to monitor."
NORML took the case to court
and won, because the University had
"insufficient reasons to withdraw the
permit," said Birkett.
The penalty for possession of
marijuana is now equal to that of a
minor in possession of alcohol. Un-
der the law, juvenile cases can not be
treated in juvenile court and juve-
niles are no longer open to counsel-
ing programs. Names of offenders
will no longer be kept confidential.
Ann Arbor citizens appear sup-
portive in the war against drugs, de-
spite student activists' feelings.
While the law is still less severe that
that of the state, it shows that the ci-
tizens are concerned.
Despite the changes in the law,
NORML plans to hold what they
call a Hemp Tour rally in support of
reform for marijuana laws next year
on Saturday April 6, instead of their
traditional April 1 rally, a decision
they made before the changes of
Interestingly enough, in the same
city elections, city voters passed a
referendum declaring Ann Arbor a
zone of Reproductive Freedom.
See LAW, Page 14

City Council: how it works,
who it's designed to work for

by David Schwartz
Daily Staff Writer
The city of Ann Arbor is gov-
erned by the Ann Arbor City Coun-
cil, which consists of a mayor and
10 other councilmembers.
Currently, Republicans outnumber
Democrats by a 6-5 margin, and the
city is led by Republican Mayor
Gerald Jernigan.
The city is divided into five
wards, and two councilmembers are
elected from each ward. The Univer-
sity of Michigan is situated in the
center of Ann Arbor, and the wards
are drawn out from campus to re-
semble the spokes of a wheel. Con-
sequently, though students live in a
concentrated area, their votes are di-
vided among five wards.
Elections are held every year on
the first Monday of April, and one
of the council seats from each ward
is contested every spring. The
mayor is also elected to two-year
terms, and the mayoral race takes
place in the spring of odd-numbered

G~ral Jerigan(RW0~I::

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The annual Hash Bash draws both pleasure seekers and those genuinely committed to legalizing marijuana. It
came as no surprise last year, when the University tried to move the Hash Bash off the Diag.

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