The Court of Appeals delivered a big win for medical marijuana rights. The Court ruled that the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act takes priority over local city zoning ordinances. Caregivers may grow marijuana despite zoning ordinances so long as the caregiver grows in an enclosed, locked facility and meets location requirements. This comes from the case of Deruiter v. Township of Byron.
What Happened in the Case
Byron Township had a zoning ordinance prohibiting medical use of marijuana in commercial areas. The ordinance allowed medical marijuana caregiver operations in residential areas only. The ordinance referred to a caregiver grow as a home occupation.
In general, cities are certainly able to pass zoning laws that regulate land use. For example, a common zoning law would separate parts of cities into industrial and residential areas.
The MMMA of course enables caregivers to grow up to 72 plants in enclosed, locked facilities.
Deruiter was growing medical marijuana in an enclosed, locked facility in a commercial section of the Township. She was sent a cease and desist letter, and she sued the Township.
The Court’s job was to determine whether the Township zoning ordinance or the MMMA took precedence, as the laws were in conflict with each other. The MMMA allowed medical marijuana use by those in compliance with the law, while the zoning ordinance regulated otherwise legal medical marijuana use. Deruiter could grow marijuana despite the ordinance if the MMMA takes precedence over the Township’s ordinance. Deruiter would not be able to continue her caregiver grow operation if the Township’s ordinance takes precedence over the MMMA.
The Court’s Decision
The Court ruled that the Medical Marijuana Act preempted (beats) the Township’s zoning ordinance. The MMMA and the zoning ordinance are in direct conflict with each other. Basically, the city ordinance sought to prohibit what the state law (the MMMA) allowed. Nothing in the MMMA enables a city to create zoning laws to regulate medical marijuana use.
State laws take precedence over city ordinances. Therefore, the MMMA wins when in conflict with a zoning ordinance. This case is important because it prevents cities from zoning out caregiver grow operations or other medical marijuana use governed by the MMMA.
This holding also reflects the Court’s decision in Ter Beek v. Wyoming, a similar case that relied on the same logic. However, this logic would not apply to marijuana businesses regulated by the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act.
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Sam Bernstein is an Ann Arbor Lawyer focusing on criminal and marijuana law.
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