Michigan Judge Orders Marijuana Negotiation in Oak Park

An Oakland County, Michigan judge has ordered opponents and proponents of a ballot initiative that would relax legal restrictions on marijuana use to negotiate a settlement to an existing lawsuit that attempts to force the city of Oak Park to place the initiative on the next ballot.

From the Detroit Free Press:

"A lawsuit against the City of Oak Park — aimed at forcing the city to put on August election ballots a proposal to ease restrictions on marijuana — took an unexpected turn Friday at the Oakland County courthouse.

Oakland Circuit Judge Rae Lee Chabot ordered the two sides to negotiate, and they did for several hours at the courthouse in Pontiac, according to city officials and members of the Safer Oak Park Coalition, which filed the lawsuit last week.

The Oak Park City Council is to meet in closed session Monday night to consider a proposed settlement, City Manager Erik Tungate said.

[']Either way, we’ll be in court Tuesday,['] either to announce a deal or try the case, Tungate said.

[']We’re negotiating a settlement to try to resolve this amicably — that’s really all I can say,['] said Mark Brewer, attorney for the Safer Oak Park Coalition.

The group’s members allege that the city is illegally keeping their cannabis proposal off the city’s August primary ballot by saying that it needs the approval of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Schuette’s approval is not required, Brewer argued in the lawsuit. The group turned in enough valid petition signatures in April to qualify for the ballot, Oak Park officials have said.

When the group turned in signatures for an identical proposal to Hazel Park, that city readily allowed the question to go on the August primary ballot without needing the approval of Schuette, according to Hazel Park Mayor Jack Lloyd, who signed one of the petitions.

A spokeswoman in Schuette’s office said Thursday that the office is reviewing the proposed ballot language, but she was unable to say how long the review might take. Oak Park’s ballots are to be printed on July 6, so the coalition members asked the court for an expedited ruling.

The ballot proposal would amend the Oak Park city charter to prohibit any city ordinance that bans [']the use, possession or transfer of less than 1 ounce of marijuana on private property not used by the public['] by people who are 21 and older. Similar proposals have won voter acceptance in nine Michigan cities."