Prosecutor reviewing marijuana cases

Becky Vargo • Nov 20, 2018 at 3:00 PM

Police in Ottawa County, like other surrounding counties, are no longer arresting recreational marijuana users if their activities are not criminal under Michigan’s new recreational marijuana law.

Whether or not pending charges will be dropped is being reviewed on a case-by-case basis, authorities say.

Ottawa County Prosecutor Ron Frantz said this has been the case since Michigan voters approved the state new law two weeks ago.

“All the police are on board with this,” Frantz said Monday.

The new law is expected to be in effect by mid-December.

“We’ve instructed our officers and the prosecutor is not going to authorize any simple possession charges,” Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Kempker said.

The sheriff said he was not sure how many cases, which would have been charged under the previous law, are being disregarded by his deputies.

“Obviously, we’re issuing the civil infractions,” Kempker said.

And police will continue to check for underage users and for those with more than the soon-to-be allowed amount of 2.5 ounces in their possession.

“Ottawa County will still have a zero-tolerance stance on driving impaired,” Kempker said.

The sheriff noted three major incidents involving marijuana that occurred the weekend after the vote:

— On Nov. 9, in Holland, a man who had been smoking marijuana shot himself and died, Kempker said.

— On Nov. 10, deputies responded to a Hudsonville motel where a person was out of control. The person admitted to smoking marijuana laced with something, the sheriff said.

— On Nov. 11, emergency crews responded to Spring Lake Township when a tree fort caught on fire. The teens involved admitted smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. They fell asleep with a campfire going inside the tree fort.

People wondering about the status of their existing marijuana possession or use cases will have to wait until prosecutors review them.

“We are looking at them on a case-by-case basis,” Frantz said. “It depends on their criminal history.”

The prosecutor said that Ottawa County has a policy that’s somewhat similar to surrounding counties.

“We’re spending a little more time on each case,” he said.

The prosecutor said that facets of the new law are still be flushed out by state legislators.

“The bottom line — if you abide by the law, you won’t be charged,” he said.

Guidance provided by the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office to local police agencies directs them to: 

— Not enforce for possession of marijuana less than 2.5 ounces.

— Not enforce for use of marijuana unless using in a public place.

— Do enforce for operating while intoxicated (includes under the influence of marijuana).

— Do enforce for possession/use by person under age 21.

Basic law

Below are some basics of what the law entails, but does not include all of the information. It is taken from a Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police summary.

What you can do

Michigan’s recreational marijuana law allows a person, age 21 and older, to consume, possess or transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, but not more than 14 grams of marijuana concentrate.

The law also allows residents age 21 or older to possess, store and process not more than 10 ounces of marijuana and not have more than 12 marijuana plants at a residence.

Up to 2.5 ounces may be given to another person age 21 or older. It can’t be sold.

What you can’t do

The law prohibits driving any kind of motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. 

A person under age 21 is not allowed to possess, use or transport marijuana.

Consuming marijuana in a public place is not allowed. It is also not allowed on private property if so designated by the owner or landlord. 

Plants can’t be cultivated in an area visible from a public area by the naked eye. They also must be in a secure area. 

Consumption of marijuana and possession of marijuana and/or marijuana accessories are not allowed on the grounds of a public or private school.

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