The Michigan Supreme Court Rules That Cities Cannot Ban Medical Marijuana

The Michigan Supreme Court in Ter Beek v. City of Wyoming ruled that city ordinances banning medical marijuana are invalid.

The ruling will effect prohibitive medical marijuana ordinances in Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Livonia, and Lyon Township.

In 2010, the city of Wyoming, a Grand Rapids suburb, amended its zoning laws to prohibit activities that are illegal under federal law. Federal law prohibits the use and cultivation of marijuana by way of the Controlled Substances Act.

The ordinance aimed to penalize Wyoming residents who use or grow marijuana as permitted under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. John Ter Beek, an attorney and qualifying medical marijuana patient, challenged the ordinance.

The case was decided according to the legal principle of preemption, which guides a situation where laws from two governing entities conflict with each other. Preemption means that the law from the superior governing entity will stand.

So when a federal law conflicts with a state law, the federal law will stand. When a state law conflicts with a city law, the state law will stand.

Because the Federal Controlled Substances Act does not preempt the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, the MMMA can preempt city ordinances. Accordingly, in this case, the Court found that the MMMA preempts the Wyoming ordinance, which renders the Wyoming ordinance invalid.

The MMMA and the Wyoming ordinance are conflicting laws, as the state law permits medical marijuana and the city ordinance does not. Between the two laws the MMMA therefore preempts the city ordinance.

The Court found no conflict between the CSA and the MMMA. This is because the MMMA grants protections against criminal penalties from Michigan law and not from federal law.

The implication from the case is that cities may not ban medical marijuana. The Court’s ruling still leaves open the possibility that cities may regulate medical marijuana through various zoning and public health laws.

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