Two Oakland County lawyers active in medical-marijuana cases announced today they’d filed a lawsuit against Bloomfield Township to overturn the township’s two medical-marijuana ordinances that went into effect Oct. 31.
Seeking no money or attorney fees, the lawsuit says the township’s ordinances make it almost impossible to use medical marijuana without risking arrest, but the township’s elected supervisor said today that the ordinance was carefully crafted to avoid conflicts with the state law that allows medical marijuana.
“I’m told that some of the folks in Bloomfield Township government are itching for a fight. Well, we’re giving them an early Christmas present,” attorney Neil Rockind said. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Oakland County Circuit Court on behalf of two township residents “who don’t even know each other” and who asked to remain anonymous because they fear police retribution, Rockind said.
The township’s ordinances prohibit growing marijuana, require patients to register with the police and make any violation punishable by up to 93 days in jail and/or up to a $500 fine, Farmington Hills attorney Thomas Loeb said.
Requiring state-approved patients to register with the police “has a chilling effect” on their right to use the drug as medicine, Loeb said.
“The township claims that they’ll keep it confidential, but there’s nothing to prevent some state or county drug task force coming into the township” and demanding patients’ names for search warrants or other legal action, he said. Michigan Department of Community Health officials have said that the state law requires safeguarding the identities of state-approved patients and state-approved caregivers — those allowed to provide the drug to approved patients — and even stipulate on the state web site that, in the office in Lansing where patient and caregiver names are kept, “computer files are secure and paper files are kept locked when not in use.”
Bloomfield Township Supervisor David Payne said the local ordinances were crafted to give the community greater control over marijuana usage.
“We don’t respond to lawsuits except in court,” Payne said today. Still, he went on to defend the ordinances.
“I believe they were appropriate,” he said. “We actually allow it (medical marijuana)” for state-approved patients who register with the police, “unlike the other places that the ACLU sued,” Payne said, referring to the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Michigan ACLU filed a lawsuit Nov. 30 in Wayne County Circuit Court, seeking to overturn medical-marijuana ordinances in Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and Livonia that the ACLU said amount to bans on any medical-marijuana use.
The language of the Bloomfield Township regulations says that the misdemeanor ordinances were “necessary to ensure the public safety, health and welfare of the township.”