Wrong Side of the Law
Despite a ruling from the Michigan Court of Appeals, Macomb Township is extending its moratorium on medical marijuana.
Macomb had a medical marijuana ban April 2011, a six-month ordinance that prohibited selling cannabis within the town’s limits, and upheld it in November. The ordinance also prohibits business establishments that want to sell cannabis from getting their permits in the town.
However, the Court ruled that this and other similar ordinances across Michigan were in violation of Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act of 2008.
In the past, public officials—like Macomb’s trustees—defended bans or moratoriums by citing that the possession and sales of cannabis was still illegal under federal law. This situation arose in other cities throughout Michigan, such as Wyoming, Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills.
Just last month, officials in Flint extended for six months their own moratorium, which will extend until Feb. 5, 2012, according to The Flint Journal. One city official noted the “uncertainties” that surround the state’s medical marijuana law
But in Macomb’s case, the moratorium was not valid since a “city ordinance that purports to prohibits what a state statute permits is void,” according to the court’s ruling.
Alan St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, says this is wrong for a variety of reasons.
“It’s just basic economic common sense,” St. Pierre says. “If something is legal, there should be a marketplace for it. Sure, you may not like liquor stores, but there are still places where you can buy liquor. Voters decided to put the state in charge as a regulatory agency, and yet you have local agencies saying that they don’t want taxes, they favor chaos, criminal syndicates and violence.”
The Michigan Supreme Court unanimously said “that the lower courts have been acting with prejudice against medical cannabis patients,” says Greg Pawlowski, activist for Detroit Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and owner of Woodward Help Solutions, referring to a recent Supreme Court 7-0 ruling that the Court of Appeals, district and circuit courts across Michigan had been denying patients their legal rights by forcing inconsistent and improper rules and restriction upon them—such as not allowing the accused to tell a jury that they are a medical marijuana patient (called an “affirmative defense”).
Pawlowski says that the board is on the wrong side of the law, but the only real fix is simply to vote out of office all who are prosecuting patients.
“Law enforcement and public officials are still accountable for their actions,” Pawlowski says. “If they act against the will of the electorate, something should be done.”
Full Court Press
The Court of Appeals also tackled the federal-law-preempts-state-law issue when it ruled that Michigan cities and townships cannot ban the use or cultivation or medical marijuana. The court ruled that Michigan state law and federal law do not clash because the Michigan Marihuana Act clearly acknowledges federal prohibition while at the same time providing an exemption for its use and cultivation under the state’s authority. “Congress can criminalize all uses of medical marijuana, (but) it cannot require the state to do the same,” the court ruled.
Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act allows registered patients to grow up to 12 plants for their own use and possess up to 2 1/2 ounces of dried cannabis. A caregiver who registers with the state is allowed to grow up to 12 plants for no more than five patients. Caregivers are allowed to receive compensation for the services they provide—the legal model cited by collectives and compassion clubs.