"respect the vote, respect the vote."
"What we have done here today is come together and shown everybody that this sort of aggression will not stand. We are watching. We are listening," one protestor told the assembled crowd.
The ordinance was
approved by 59% of city voters a month ago and was originally scheduled to go into effect Thursday. That ordinance would make possession of marijuana a civil infraction rather than a crime and reduce jail or prison penalties to fines.
But Forsyth argued in the suit filed last week the ordinance conflicts with state law. And, he said, it puts law enforcement people in a bad spot: If they enforce the local ordinance, they could be violating state law.
Protestors Thursday accused the prosecutor of defying the will of the voters.
"I hate marijuana. I don't care. It's about democracy here," said protestor Dallas McCulloch. "We're just trying to say elections are important. What is the point of having them if someone tries to undermine the will of the people?"
And some say the suit is a waste of taxpayer money.
"We're spending resources that we don't have to fight a case that almost two to one residents in Grand Rapids voted in favor for. It's alarming. It's alarming. As a conservative, it's unacceptable," said Joe Brown of Conservative Christians for Cannabis Reform.
"I knew when I filed the lawsuit, it was going to upset some people and I don't blame them at some level," Forsyth said Thursday.
But Forsyth said he considered the issue carefully and decided he had no choice but to file a challenge. Just because people vote for something doesn't make it legal, he said. And in this case, his job is to enforce the law.
"In my estimation, state law is very clear and that is a city -- a home-rule city, which GR is -- can't make a crime under the drug laws a civil infraction," he said.
Forsyth said the city could make marijuana possession a misdemeanor with a $10 fine, for example. That would leave possession a crime and square it with state law.
A hearing on the prosecutor's lawsuit is scheduled for January.
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Michigan is governed as a republic, with three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. The state also allows direct participation of the electorate by initiative, referendum, recall, and ratification.