Tuesday’s municipal election is far from routine in
Ferndale, where voters will decide whether to decriminalize marijuana and
decide a mayoral race that is reportedly splitting the suburb’s gay community.
The marijuana measure is fueling a hotly contested four-way mayoral race that pits Michigan’s first and second openly gay mayors, incumbent Dave Coulter and his predecessor, Craig Covey, against one another. The two are “friends and allies,” according to a report earlier this year on msn.com, but they’re on opposite sides of the marijuana decriminalization issue.
Two others are also in the hunt to lead Ferndale for the next four years: Linda Parton and Sherry Wells.
The question before voters is whether to adopt an ordinance that would decriminalize the use, possession or transfer of less than 1 ounce of marijuana, on private property, by persons 21 years or older.
Coulter says that as long as possession of marijuana is illegal under state and federal law, it shouldn’t be legal in Ferndale, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Covey, a current Oakland County supervisor and a former mayor, strongly supports decriminalization and helped gather signatures to bring the issue before voters.
Though the Ferndale City Council declined to adopt an ordinance decriminalizing marijuana for residents 21 and older, Ferndale resident Andrew Cissell gathered enough signatures to place the measure on Tuesday’s ballot.
The marijuana decriminalization issue is also heating up a four-way race for mayor.
The ballot measure is fraught with controversy.
Cissell, 25, was jailed in September after he allegedly sold marijuana to Detroit police informants. He also has been charged with election fraud, after Ferndale city officials alleged he misrepresented himself as a Ferndale resident when he filed the petition to place the measure on the ballot.
Covey called Cissell, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, “another victim in the war on drugs that needs to end.”
To place the issue of decriminalization before voters, Cissell needed 364 signatures on the petition; he and supporters gathered 600, according to the Fox News Detroit story.
Cissell, who reportedly plans to run for a seat in the Michigan House of Representatives in 2014, called marijuana a “gateway to peace.”
“I don’t think it’s the gateway to violence or any other drug usage,” he told Fox News Detroit last summer.
In the same interview, Covey said he thinks it’s just a matter of time before marijuana is decriminalized for all adults, as it already has been in Detroit and Ann Arbor.
"I don't think the sheriff will like it, but city after city's going to do it, and at some point marijuana is going to become decriminalized for all adults," he said.
Coulter says he hopes voters will cast their ballots for him based on his record and not the pot issue.