The Michigan Court of Appeals recently held a city of Warren ordinance regulating medical marijuana grows is not enforceable.
What Were the Warren Ordinances?
There were two requirements contained in a Warren ordinance that were in issue in this case. The ordinance applied to medical marijuana growers who grow in their own residential home. The ordnance required the growers to;
1) Register with the Department of Building and Safety Engineering and to pass a safety inspection for electrical, heating, plumbing, storage, and disposal of materials from marijuana, and
2) The home must have filtration for its ventilation system to prevent the emission of odors for neighboring properties, and the home must be inspected and meet the satisfaction of the Department of Buildings and Safety Engineering.
Violations of these ordinances were misdemeanors, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and fines.
The Court of Appeals Ruling
The Court ruled that these Warren ordinances were preempted by the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. Preemption is a legal doctrine that comes into effect when two laws directly conflict with each other. When two laws are in conflict, a Court will look to see which law is superior to the other law. For example, a federal law is superior to a state law, and a state law is superior to a township law.
In this situation, the Court ruled that the MMMA was the superior law. The Warren ordinance is a city law, while the MMMA is a state law.
The Warren ordinance applies a level of regulations to medical marijuana growing that is in conflict with the growing requirements of the MMMA. The MMMA says marijuana must be grown in an enclosed, locked facility. The Warren ordinance creates a level of regulations over and above the MMMA requirements. Therefore, the two laws are in conflict. The MMMA, as the state law, wins.
Importance of the Case
This case follows from a case called Deruiter v. Township of Byron. The Deruiter case essentially held that municipalities could not create zoning laws that conflicted with the MMMA. Many municipalities have tried to “zone out” medical marijuana. Warren was one of those municipalities. The 37th District Court of Warren and the Macomb County Circuit Court ruled in favor of the medical marijuana grower in this case (which is called City of Warren v. Clayton Jamers Bezy).
Warren is a large city which has not been friendly toward medical marijuana. This case was skillfully litigated by Bezy’s attorney and is a big win for medical marijuana advocates. With recreational marijuana now the reality, this case and Deruiter before it are more important than ever.
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Sam Bernstein is an Ann Arbor Attorney focusing on Criminal Defense.
ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.