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Northern Michigan prosecutors split on old marijuana charges


Recreational Marijuana became legal in Michigan on Dec. 6, 2018. Otsego County Prosecuting Attorney Brendan Curran says he welcomed it.

“We have a significant drug problem here, and that problem is not marijuana. That problem is drugs that kill people” Curran says. “That’s what I’ve intended to focus as much resources as possible on.”

After the November election when recreational marijuana passed and before it was legalized, Curran dismissed the majority of marijuana charges that came across his desk. He says as time permits, he’ll also go back and dismiss many use and possession charges that occured before the election.

Grand Traverse and Kalkaska county prosecutors have also been dismissing charges since November. They say they’ll go back and dismiss some cases from before then based on circumstances.

“We’re looking at criminal histories, circumstances, how much marijuana they were in possession of, those kinds of things, before making a decision,” Kalkaska Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Ryan Ziegler says.

But others haven’t changed their process. Wexford County Prosecutor Jason Elmore says he won’t be dismissing old cases, and he doesn’t think other prosecutors should either.

“It is not in our responsibility or even within our authority to dismiss those prior convictions,” Elmore says. “The rule of law provided that it was against the law.”


In fact, Elmore says that marijuana becoming legal may make his job harder. For example, he says a lot of marijuana charges in Wexford County usually involve possession of other drugs as well.


“We find that they not only possess those other drugs, but we also find they possess marijuana. We can only charge them now with the other drugs,” Elmore says.


Marijuana is legal to possess and use on private property if you’re over the age of 21 in Michigan.

Max came to IPR in 2017 as an environmental intern. In 2018, he returned to the station as a reporter and quickly took on leadership roles as Interim News Director and eventually Assignment Editor. Before joining IPR, Max worked as a news director and reporter at Michigan State University's student radio station WDBM. In 2018, he reported on a Title IX dispute with MSU in his story "Prompt, Thorough and Impartial." His work has also been heard on Michigan Radio, WDBM and WKAR in East Lansing and NPR.