The Supreme Court:
Barack Obama won re-election. From a criminal defense standpoint, this is important because it is very likely that the 45th President will select at least one, perhaps 2 new U.S. Supreme Court Justices. It is certainly possible that what has been a conservative court for the past 40 years will transform into a liberal court within the next 2 years. This is perhaps the single most important consequent of Barack Obama being re-elected.
Two U.S. States, Massachusetts and Montana, approved Medical Marijuana. 18 states have now legalized medical marijuana. As more states approve the use of medical marijuana it will be harder for the feds to regulate and prohibit medical marijuana. Some experts believe that when the number gets to just over 26 U.S. states, that the federal government will be forced to change their position regarding the classification of marijuana as a schedule one controlled substance with no medicinal value.
Two more U.S. States, Colorado and Washington, legalized the recreational use of marijuana within their respective states. According to the laws, individuals over the age of 21 will be able to purchase and possess marijuana under state law – meaning the state will no longer be able to charge them with marijuana related crimes. However, marijuana possess, distribution, manufacture and use will still be prohibited under federal law. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out over the next couple of years, but it seems certain that the federal government has come to a crossroads: Either the federal government will step out of the way and let the states run their own marijuana programs, or the federal government will step in and penalize the states in the event that they move forward with implementing their recreational marijuana schemes. This penalization could include withholding of federal funds, just like the federal government did when certain states refused to raise their drinking age from 18 to 21 years old.
Decriminalization of Marijuana in Detroit:
It seems that the people the City of Detroit have decriminalized marijuana within city limits. Therefore, individuals within the city of Detroit are now permitted under city ordinance to possess and consume small amount of marijuana. However, there are several caveats that need to be addressed: 1) The buying and selling of marijuana within the city of Detroit is still illegal; 2) the manufacture or growing of marijuana is still illegal; 3) this is a local ordinance issue, which means that the police can still arrest you for possession and use of marijuana and charge you with a crime under state law; 4) possession and use is still prohibited under federal law. 3 and 4 above are the most problematic because people in possession and those using marijuana really have no protection if the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office decides to start prosecuting individuals under state law. Even more troubling are the statements made by the head of the Detroit Police, wherein he stated that if the decriminalization passed, his officers would disregard the law and arrest people and charge them regardless. That said, be careful utilizing the new law – as it may not really guarantee any protection at all.
Three U.S. States, Maine, Maryland, and Washington, all voted to legalize gay-marriage. This is significant, because this is the first time in history any state, let alone, three, have actually voted in support of gay-marriage; in all other states where it is legal, it was done so through the legislative process as opposed to the electoral process. It obviously won’t have any direct impact on Michigan, as we banned gay-marriage years ago – but it’s good to know that the country as a whole seems to be moving in the right direction.
By now most people have probably heard that all 6 of the proposals in Michigan were defeated. I don’t necessarily agree with the defeat of Props 2 and 3, but personally the defeat of Props 1, 5, and 6 were necessary. Apparently we really hate approving referendums in the state of Michigan.
– Colin A. Daniels