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Michigan Prosecutor Won’t Pursue Most Marijuana Or Psychedelics Cases, ‘Regardless Of The Amount’



A county prosecutor in Michigan announced on Tuesday that his office will not be pursuing charges over possessing marijuana or entheogenic substances like psilocybin and ayahuasca — “regardless of the amount at issue.”

Eli Savit, who was elected as prosecuting attorney in Washtenaw County in November, said state and local policy changes have underscored the need to end the drug war and cease criminalizing people over cannabis and psychedelics. He also said that his office will not contest applications for marijuana- or entheogen-related expungements.

In a pair of directives, Savit gave background on laws governing cannabis and psychedelics, stressing racial disparities in enforcement and the relatively low risk the substances pose to public health. Additionally, the prosecutor emphasized that Michigan has legalized marijuana for adult use and Ann Arbor opted to decriminalize entheogenic substances last year.

In September, shortly after being elected, Savit discussed his plans to enact the reforms, calling the drug was an “abject failure.”

“The Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office will no longer file criminal charges for unauthorized use or possession of marijuana or cannabis, regardless of the amount at issue,” the new directive states. That’s despite the fact that there are possession limits written into the state’s cannabis law and criminal penalties for exceeding that threshold.

“We’ve long known that marijuana is as safe as alcohol. It thus makes no more sense to charge someone for having ‘too much’ cannabis than it does to charge people for having ‘too many’ bottles of wine,” Savit wrote on Twitter. “And we won’t, any longer.”

When it comes to distribution, the notice says there will be “a general presumption against filing criminal charges” for small-scale sales, but they will still be able to pursue charges related to large-scale distribution, depending on a number of factors such as the amount of money involved and the “clientele to whom cannabis was being sold.”

“The Prosecutor’s Office will not contest any application for expungement where the underlying charge was for the possession, use, cultivation, or distribution of marijuana,” the directive continues. “This policy applies both to marijuana-related conduct that is now lawful in the aftermath of 2018’s Proposal 1, as well as marijuana-related conduct that is not.”

For entheogenic substances, Savit’s notice similarly says it is ending prosecutions for possession or use of the psychedelics. And as with marijuana, distribution cases will be handled on a discretionary basis depending on whether the prosecutor’s office defines the activity as small-scale or large-scale.

“Criminalization of entheogenic plants simply doesn’t make sense,” the prosecutor said. “They’re not addictive. They don’t cause violent behavior. And other jurisdictions have successfully decriminalized them without any negative consequences.”

Expungement applications for convictions related to the plants and fungi will also go uncontested.

Savit said that the new policies are a recognition that “it’s time to move forward from the unjust & inequitable policies of the past, particularly relating to prohibitionist systems.”

“Today’s announcements are a first step,” he said. “More is coming, very very soon.”

This is the latest example of prosecutors proactively reforming drug policies within their jurisdictions following voter-led or legislative change.

In Oregon, for example, three prosecutors have announced that they’d stop pursuing drug possession cases following voters’ approval of a decriminalization initiative in November—even though it doesn’t formally take effect until February.

Reform has also come at the gubernatorial level in Michigan and elsewhere in the form of clemency and expungement actions. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in December granted clemency to four currently incarcerated people who are serving time for non-violent drug offenses, including one 69-year-old man whose lengthy sentence for marijuana has been widely criticized by advocates and the state’s attorney general.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) pardoned thousands of people who had previously been convicted of cannabis possession in December 2019 prior to the first legal marijuana sales in the state. He said in October that more cannabis clemency was coming. He followed up on that action last month, announcing more than 500,000 expungements and pardons for people with low-level marijuana offenses on their records.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) used a recently enacted law to grant nearly 3,000 pardons for people convicted of possession one ounce of less of marijuana.

In June, more than 15,000 people who were convicted for low-level marijuana possession in Nevada were automatically pardoned under a resolution from the governor and Board of Pardons Commissioners.

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has also issued pardons for cannabis offenses.

Meanwhile, a coalition of civil rights and drug policy reform groups has called on the governor of New Jersey to systematically issue pardons for people with marijuana convictions to supplement the state’s voter-approved move to legalize cannabis.

New York Governor Calls For Marijuana Legalization In State Of The State Address

Photo elements courtesy of carlosemmaskype and Apollo.

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