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      Benzie County man looks to decriminalize marijuana

      A Benzie County man says people convicted of using marijuana should not face the same fines or jail time as other drug users.

      Rev. Steven Thompson stood in front of elected officials Tuesday and is hoping to start making those changes in his county. He is representing the Benzie County National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, or NORML.

      â??I would like to see us become the first county to adopt an ordinance that not completely decriminalizes cannabis, it still recognizes that it's illegal, but it's reduced to a civil infraction and not such a hardship on us that choose to use it,â?? said Thompson, Benzie County NORML Director.

      He wants fines reduced for those caught with two and a half ounces of marijuana or less. Thompson is proposing a 25 dollar fine for the first offense, 50 dollars for the second and 100 dollars for the third offense. He's also asking for no jail time and no probation.

      â??There are several cannabis people that live within this county that grow and consume and believe in the plant as a natural recreational, if you will, we prefer it over alcohol and we prefer it over drugs, legal or otherwise.â??

      No decisions were made at Tuesday's meeting. Thompson asked commissioners to look over his proposal before the next meeting.

      â??We get that in front of the legal council. We'll have them look at it. Then likely an issue of that magnitude in the community, I would think that that would be an ordinance that might rise to the level of actually putting it on the ballot,â?? said Donald Tanner, Benzie County Commissioner.

      Before any decisions are made, the Benzie County Sheriff already knows he does not want marijuana to be decriminalized in his county.

      â??I believe it is a gateway drug and it can lead to more serious drugs, and as you know we have quite a problem in Benzie County related to serious narcotics, such as pain medication and heroin,â?? said Sheriff Ted Schendel.

      Thompson says his ultimate goal is to get his proposal on the ballot to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan.