ACLU Sues Michigan Cities Banning Medical Marijuana

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a suit against the cities of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and Livonia on Wednesday supporting a 61-year-old Birmingham woman’s right to use medical marijuana.

ACLU officials charge that Linda Lott, a licensed medical marijuana patient suffering from multiple sclerosis for 28 years, is having her state rights violated by ordinances in all three cities prohibiting growing and using medical marijuana.

“The people of Michigan voted overwhelmingly in support of compassionate care for patients like Linda Lott whose pain can be eased by the use of medical marijuana,” said Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director. “In a democracy, city commissions do not have the power to veto statewide ballot initiatives after they have been approved by the voters and enacted into law.”

Lott says she uses the medical marijuana to relieve back spasms, a side effect of her condition.

“Instead of relief, I now live in fear that I could be arrested by local officials for following state law,” Lott said in a statement released by the ACLU.

The outcome of the lawsuit could set a legal precedence for the entire state of Michigan, including several Northern Michigan communities currently considering how to govern medical marijuana in the future because of the ambiguity of the Medical Marijuana Act, which state voters approved by 62 percent in 2008.

Though none of the local municipalities in Emmet County have sought to outlaw patient or caregiver use, they have struggled with how to prepare to deal with dispensaries and compassion clubs in the future.

City of Harbor Springs officials recently considered a city ordinance requiring all home occupations to adhere to state and federal law, effectively banning medical marijuana dispensaries under the federal law among other occupations. However, the measure failed to gain the necessary votes by the Harbor Springs City Council to pass.

Harbor Springs city manager Tom Richards said Wednesday the city has not considered revising or proposing a new ordinance at this time.

Richards said the ACLU suit did not surprise him.

“Personally, I think the legislature owes it to the state to define and make some rules to manage this,” Richards said. “It seems like the Legislature got caught flat footed with the (2008) proposal and have not gotten into defining and regulating the business as they would for just about anything else.”

The lack of definition has municipalities throughout Michigan attempting to make their own definitions and guidelines in the Medical Marijuana Act’s stead.

The Emmet County Board of Commissioners has placed a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries through March, while a county-appointed committee researches and discusses possible zoning options for regulating the growing number of patients, caregivers and profiteers in the area.

The county committee remains in the information-gathering stage and is broadly discussing a prohibition, specific regulations or simply “doing nothing” as its future avenues.

The village of Mackinaw City also approved a similar moratorium in May restricting medical marijuana dispensaries. The village mailed letters to select businesses in their jurisdiction notifying them of the prohibition on selling marijuana paraphernalia, according to Mackinaw City Planning Commission minutes.

The Emmet County Medical Marijuana Committee is set to meet next at 5 p.m. Jan. 25, in the Emmet County Courthouse Building in downtown Petoskey.

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