Political organizers behind easing laws against marijuana use have been quietly cheering since November.

That's when voters in Detroit and four other Michigan cities -- as well as residents of Colorado and Washington state -- passed referendums to reduce penalties for possession of the drug and, in a few cases, make it easier to obtain or grow.


Since then, activists for the change like Matt Abel of Detroit and Tom LaVigne of Grosse Pointe Park, partners in a Detroit law firm, have been relishing last fall's election victories in Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Ypsilanti.

Now, the two are eyeing fresh political efforts for Mt. Clemens, Jackson, Lansing, Traverse City and more.


But they're also monitoring a rash of challenges to implementing voters' wishes.


"The man is not going down easy," Abel, 53, said Monday, with a laugh -- a slang reference to the war on drugs and specifically to Michigan, where some political leaders and law-enforcement authorities find the voter-passed initiatives impossible to accept.


In Grand Rapids, Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth is expected in court Wednesday to seek a preliminary injunction that would block that city's new ordinance.


In Detroit, elected officials are foot-dragging about whether to implement their decriminalization ordinance.


In Flint, the city's state-appointed emergency manager has declared that Flint's police will ignore the ordinance.


And in Kalamazoo, authorities have said they dare not implement voters' wishes -- to license three dispensaries -- because that would violate state drug laws.


"I think we're seeing the citizens of the largest cities in Michigan trying to send a message to our leaders -- it's time to decriminalize marijuana in our state -- but I don't know if they're getting the message," Abel said.


Sowing confusion
Law enforcement officials and specialists in drug abuse prevention said the new ordinances sow confusion about marijuana.


"It's posing a huge problem because, more and more, you have kids thinking that this is not a risky drug," Judy Rubin, executive director of the Tri-Community Coalition, which counsels youths in Berkley, Huntington Woods and Oak Park.



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