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Michigan debates reducing penalties for marijuana possession

Individuals charged with marijuana possession may face smaller penalties if a proposed bill is passed in Michigan. The proposed bill would decriminalize marijuana by reducing the penalty for individuals charged with possessing an ounce or less of marijuana.

The bill would make possession of an ounce or less a civil infraction instead of a misdemeanor charge. The bill does not propose to make marijuana legal in the Michigan. Instead, the bill would change charges of small possession of marijuana a civil offense and get rid of the possibility of jail time for offenders. The penalty for marijuana possession would result in a fine of $25 for the first offense, increase to $50 for the second offense and $75 for a third offense.

The bill is supported by many lawmakers in Michigan. Supporters say that the state is spending too much money enforcing and punishing low-level drug offenders and reducing the penalties to get rid of jail time would save the state a lot of money. The lawmaker who sponsored the bill said that 17 other states have decriminalized marijuana and have not seen an increase in drug use.

Despite bipartisan support for the bill, some Michigan lawmakers are opposed to reducing the penalties for marijuana possession. Opponents of the bill say that the state should discourage citizens from using illegal drugs and passing this bill may do the opposite. Some lawmakers have questioned the impact the bill would have on communities and their overall health if marijuana penalties are reduced or even made legal in the future.

Opponents and supporters of the bill both agree that the debate will continue, which may make it difficult for the bill to get passed. However, there is a lot of support for the bill throughout the state, and if the bill is passed, it would significantly reduce the criminal charges and penalties individuals arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana in Michigan.

Source: M Live, "Marijuana decriminlization in Michigan? Democratic House Leader just says no," Jonathan Oosting, May 15, 2013

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