spirit of Detroit

Detroit voters will consider three ballot proposals on Nov. 2 involving psychedelics, reparations and the input of citizens in budgetary decisions.


Two of the three proposals are citizen-led initiatives, while the third is a referral from Detroit City Council. Detroiters will also vote for city clerk, City Council and mayor. 

Decriminalizing psychedelics 

Proposal E asks voters to decriminalize the possession of entheogenic plants, such as psilocybin mushrooms. Should voters pass the proposal, Detroit would be one of a handful of cities, like Ann Arbor, that have decriminalized possession of the plants. Cities in California and Colorado have similar decriminalization efforts.

However, passing the proposal would not legalize the plants; it would lessen local police efforts to control the use of the plants and limit entheogenic plant-related arrests.

The proposal reads similarly to marijuana decriminalization proposals from years prior, but the merchandising of entheogenic plants would still be illegal.

Developing Detroit’s plan for reparations

Voters will also consider Proposal R, a proposal referred from City Council that would create a reparations taskforce. President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield reintroduced a City ordinance last summer to begin the reparations process, which would require the City to examine issues from a racial equity framework.

It was found earlier this year that two-thirds of city residents wanted reparations for past housing discrimination in the city. They also want to be repaid for being overcharged on taxes during the Great Recession.  

“It’s a taskforce,” said Eric Lupher, president and CEO of the Citizens Research Council. “It has no ability to spend money or to appropriate, it can’t make any decisions. It can only do the research on these issues, gather information and present that to the City Council for them to act.”

Lupher’s organization published an analysis of the Detroit ballot proposals. According to Lupher, the benefit of the taskforce is continued discussion. The proposal is local government’s way of determining whether  this is something that voters want, even though it does not promise change in the future. The City Council could have approved the creation of the taskforce without voter approval.

“I think it’s more about the politics of it, that they wanted to show this isn’t just City Council talking amongst themselves,” Lupher said. “They wanted to show that there is public support for this reparations movement.”

Lifting the ban on citizen-led initiatives 

Proposal S, the third proposal on Detroit’s Nov. 2 ballot, asks voters whether they want to amend City Charter language that currently forbids appropriations through an initiative process. Should voters approve the change, Detroiters will have more control over how funds are appropriated through City Council. The current charter prohibits citizen-led initiatives from interfering.

Most cities in Michigan allow funds to be appropriated through a citizen-led initiative, but most other Michigan cities are not recovering from bankruptcy. However, some may see this as a necessary amendment in the wake of a bribery scandal that has ensnared multiple members of City Council. 

“There would be no way to say, ‘Can the City afford what the people are voting on?’” Lupher said. “Does it trump all other priorities of the City? Or does it come to the top of the list now because the people voted on it? It sounds good until you start thinking about all the details and the ways things could go wrong.”

Olivia Lewis is a reporter for BridgeDetroit. She was formerly a reporter for the Battle Creek Enquirer and the Indianapolis Star. She has also worked in philanthropy for the Kresge Foundation, the Council...

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