Township Faces Lawsuit Over Medical Marijuana

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — Bloomfield Township’s recently enacted medical marijuana ordinances are under fire following a lawsuit filed in Oakland County Circuit Court that claims the laws conflict with the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act and violate the rights of Michigan patients.

Attorneys Neil Rockind of Southfield and Thomas Loeb of Farmington Hills filed claims against the township Dec. 14 on behalf of two patients living in the township who are affected by the new ordinances.

The lawsuit was filed as John Doe and Richard Roe vs. Bloomfield Township. Pseudonyms were used in lieu of the patients’ real names to protect their privacy.

In October, Bloomfield Township adopted a set of ordinances that ban medical marijuana dispensaries and caregivers from setting up in the township. The law also prohibits the growth, cultivation and sale of medical marijuana anywhere in the township, and limits the amount of patients to two per residence. Patients are also required under the regulation to register with the Bloomfield Township Police Department.

Before the measures were  approved, Bloomfield Township Police Capt. Steve Cook said he, Police Chief Kirt Bowden and Township Attorney Bill Hampton had come up with the set of rules they feel not only protects patients, but also residents, officers and fire personnel.

Cook had told the Board of Trustees that eliminating the transaction of money as it relates to the sale of medical marijuana could remove a certain element of crime from the situation; that eliminating growth could prevent fires from occurring from the misuse of grow lamps; and said having patients register with the township would allow their home to be flagged, in a sense, so officers would know medical marijuana patients live there in the event a call were to come in from a neighbor suggesting there was drug use taking place there.

The township ordinances do allow patients to have and use medical marijuana in their own homes, and permits patients to carry up to 2.5 ounces into the township.

Rockind and Loeb’s lawsuit addresses all aspects of the ordinances.

“The ordinance actually requires that township residents that are patients, despite being otherwise lawfully authorized to use medical marijuana under state law, are required to register with the Township Police Department,” said Rockind, adding that the notion contradicts patient privacy laws.

“They were promised they could use it confidentially — now they have to go down to the Police Department to fill out a form.”

Another portion of the law he has a problem with is that only two registered patients can live together in a home. He said the law abolishes freedoms such as rooming with people who perhaps share like medical conditions.

“So if three cancer patients that happened to have met decide to make life a little easier and share some of life’s expenses (and) move in together, Bloomfield Township would only allow two of them to be medical marijuana users,” Rockind said. “Yet you could have 10 people living in a house — and, if the doctor prescribes, using Vicodin, Oxycontin and Xanax.”

In 2008, Michigan voters approved the state’s first law allowing patients to use medical marijuana to treat certain illnesses. Roughly 60 percent of voters approved the law. The same percentage of Bloomfield Township voters also agreed to it at the time.

Since then, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act has raised some concern for communities as to how it should be regulated while still honoring patients’ rights, as medical marijuana is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government.

“I have found that the local police departments and local government by and large appear more interested in finding ways to undermine and limit the Medical Marijuana Act than they do try to protect their residents’ rights to medicate as they chose,” said Rockind.

Bloomfield Township Supervisor Dave Payne said the township has received the lawsuit and it’s been referred to Hampton, the township’s attorney.

“While we were in the process of developing the ordinance, we were very careful to consult with our attorney, Bill Hampton, to develop an ordinance that we believed met the requirements of the law,” Payne said. “If someone wants to challenge that, they obviously have the right to do so.”

The American Civil Liberties Union recently filed a lawsuit against the cities of Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham and Livonia, challenging ordinances city officials passed in each of the three cities that the ACLU claims violate the rights of medical marijuana users.

Although the three ordinances make no specific mention of medical marijuana, the ACLU argues that it is clear from meeting minutes that they were enacted to criminalize medical marijuana. By enacting a complete ban on all medical marijuana, the ACLU claims Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills are “flouting state law and ignoring federal drug policy.”

Unlike many local officials struggling to interpret the law, Rockind says he thinks the state’s Medical Marijuana Act is well written.

“The purpose of this law is to create a safe zone,” he said, in that it protects everyone involved with medical marijuana — from its manufacturers and patients to the physicians that prescribe it.

“It creates this bubble around the whole medical marijuana community,” Rockind continued. “I’m not worried about how the law is being interpreted by everyday citizens interested in finding ways to use marijuana for medical purposes. I’m much more concerned with the way local government and law enforcement are trying to limit it or render it obsolete.”

The township has 21 days from the filing to respond.

via C&G News

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