Michigan Appeals Court Strikes Down City’s Ban on Medical Marijuana

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
August 1, 2012 6:02 pm

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan applauded a state appeals court decision today declaring the City of Wyoming’s ordinance that bans medical marijuana “void and unenforceable” because it directly violates the state’s Medical Marihuana Act.

The lawsuit was originally filed in November 2010 on behalf of John Ter Beek, a retired attorney and medical marijuana patient who suffers from diabetes and a neurological disorder that causes neuropathy and severe pain.

“In 2008, people across the state overwhelmingly voted to protect patients who use marijuana to treat their medical conditions from punishment and penalty,” said Dan Korobkin, ACLU of Michigan staff attorney. “Today’s decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals rejects the misguided efforts of a few local officials to undo the results of that historic election. Now that the law is clear, all cities should take notice and stop threatening to treat patients who have done nothing wrong like criminals.”

The ordinance was adopted by the Wyoming City Council in 2010 despite a public outcry. Ter Beek, who feared criminal and civil penalties if he grew or used medical marijuana in accordance with state law, filed the lawsuit challenging the ordinance. The ACLU later joined the lawsuit.

“The fact is medical marijuana helps people; it’s helped me,” said Ter Beek. “I’ve tried narcotic-based drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin and nothing worked like medical marijuana. I couldn’t just sit by as our elected officials try to ignore the will of the people and take this option from me and thousands of others.”

In 2008, the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act was approved on a statewide ballot. Sixty-three percent of voters approved the law statewide, including 59 percent of voters in Wyoming. The Wyoming ordinance, while not specifically mentioning medical marijuana, prohibits any violations of federal law. Because medical marijuana is still technically illegal under federal law, the city used this terminology to ban medical marijuana.

The federal government, however, does not prosecute patients and caregivers who comply with their states’ medical marijuana laws, and the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act specifically states that registered patients and their caregivers “shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner” for growing, possessing, or using medical marijuana.

Just 5 days before Wyoming adopted its ordinance, the ACLU of Michigan filed a similar lawsuit against the cities of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and Livonia. The ACLU sent a copy of that lawsuit to Wyoming city officials prior to their vote. The lawsuit against Birmingham is pending in the Michigan Court of Appeals.

In addition to Korobkin, Ter Beek is represented by Michael J. Steinberg, Kary L. Moss, Miriam Aukerman and Mike Nelson of the ACLU of Michigan.
To read the decision, go to: http://www.aclumich.org/sites/default/files/TerBeekCOAOpinion.pdf
To read the ACLU of Michigan’s winning brief, go to: http://www.aclumich.org/sites/default/files/TerBeekBrief.pdf

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