Learn more about marijuana in Michigan

For many, the story of Michigan marijuana laws starts in Ann Arbor, which has been at the forefront of marijuana activism since the 1970s. Almost 50 years before Michigan voters passed recreational cannabis, the small college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan was the epicenter of the turning tide against harsh penalties in the state for the possession and sale of marijuana, which could fetch a year of prison for less than two ounces or four years for any marijuana transaction.

It all came to a head in July 1969 when poet John Sinclair received 10 years for giving two marijuana joints to an undercover Detroit cop, which earned him a spot at the state penitentiary in Jackson, Michigan. Planned by Sinclair from prison, the resulting John Sinclair Freedom Rally in December 1971 at Ann Arbor's Crisler Arena included John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, and Allen Ginsberg, among others, and directly led to the release of Sinclair just three days later.

The following year, the Ann Arbor city council passed a bill that decriminalized marijuana possession down to a $5 civil ticket for up to two ounces.

In 1973, the ordinance was repealed by the city council, but voters stepped in on April 2, 1974 to uphold the $5 ticket and to prevent local authorities from making arrests under punitive Michigan marijuana laws.

In 1983, Ann Arbor voters rejected a proposed repeal of the $5 civil charge, but a 1990 referendum upped the ticket to $25, $50 and $100 for successive infractions, though it remained a civil offense.

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