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Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go In The Water... Another Medical Marijuana Ruling Comes Along

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Ronald D. Richards Jr.
Foster Swift Municipal Law News
August 2012

We have previously written several newsletter articles about court decisions interpreting the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (the Act). Some may have thought the dust had settled on those decisions and that there may be some clarity as to what a municipality can – and can’t – do under the Act. Not so fast. Along comes a case to confirm the waters are still muddy in this area. The City of Wyoming, like many Michigan municipalities, adopted a zoning ordinance that barred any land uses that are contrary to federal law. A medical marijuana patient sued to have the court declare that the ordinance is invalid as conflicting with the Act. The city argued that its ordinance is valid, even if preempted by the Act, because the federal controlled substances law preempts the Act; as such, the Act cannot stand as an obstacle to enforcing its ordinance. The trial court ruled in favor of the city, finding that the federal controlled substances law preempted the Act because the Act stood as an obstacle to the purposes embodied in the federal law.

The Court of Appeals reversed and voided the city’s ordinance. Its ruling is 2-fold:

  1. It said that the city’s zoning ordinance directly conflicted with the Act.
  2. It said that the federal controlled substances law does not preempt the Act.

What does this decision mean to municipalities? We take three lessons away from this ruling:

  1. This may not be the last we hear of this case. For several reasons, this is yet another medical marijuana case that the Michigan Supreme Court will likely take a close look at and possibly get involved in reviewing.
  2. Zoning ordinances like the city’s – which bar land uses that are contrary to federal law – are of suspect enforceability as long as this decision stands.
  3. The haze continues. Just when you thought you may know the boundaries of what individuals and municipalities can and can’t do under the Act, we get a decision like this.

If you have questions about this article, feel free to contact Anne Seurynck (616.726.2240) of the Foster Swift Municipal Practice Group.