Neil Rockind In the News | Medical Marijuana

Can Oakland County legal cases help clear haze of Michigan’s medical marijuana law?

More than two years after Michigan voters approved the use of medical marijuana, a series of legal cases involving Oakland County could help shape application of the law for years to come.

While Michigan’s law allows registered patients to use the drug, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and several local municipalities have banned or regulated it.

That disconnect has led to various levels of enforcement and regulation, and many Oakland County leaders are calling on Lansing to clarify the situation.

Jan. 3, Hometown Life: “The law is a total mess,” said Bloomfield Township attorney William Hampton. “The Legislature must do something about this. It’s such a poorly written law.”

It’s an issue that needs to be worked out between local municipalities, counties and the state legislature in 2011, said state Rep. Vicki Barnett, D-Farmington Hills.

She said there has been some talk among Oakland County officials and a bipartisan group of Oakland County state legislators, but nothing has been ironed out to clarify the law or the wishes of the voters. She hopes to see the issue addressed in 2011.

But absent action from Lansing, it could be up to the courts to resolve a number of outstanding interpretive issues stemming from arrests and regulations in Oakland County.

Are marijuana dispensaries legal?

Under the orders of Sheriff Mike Bouchard, Oakland County authorities in August raided a medical marijuana dispensary in Ferndale and arrested nine people.  While the defendants are accused of various drug-related crimes, Bouchard and County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper have both suggested such clinics are illegal, despite a local ordinance allowing them. Michigan law allows registered caregivers to grow up to 12 plants each for as many as five patients but does not indicate whether they can grow or sell their product in a shared space.

Have some Michigan municipalities taken regulation too far?

In part due to confusion surrounding the state law, several Michigan municipalities have attempted to ban or highly-regulate medical marijuana at the local level. While state law trumps local ordinances, enforcement typically occurs at a local level, and critics say some cities have denied residents easy access to the legally-recognized medicine.

The ACLU of Michigan last month filed a lawsuit against Livonia, Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills, arguing city ordinances effectively banned medical marijuana. Separately, two Oakland County attorneys filed a lawsuit against Bloomfield Township for an ordinance prohibiting marijuana growing and requiring patients to register with local police. We think the township ordinances are not only unconstitutional, but they directly conflict with the state law that was passed by 63 percent of the people,” said Neil Rockind.

Does the ‘inartfully drafted’ legislation trump other state laws?

Robert Redden and Torey Clark were arrested for growing marijuana at their Madison Heights home in 2009 shortly after registering but before they’d received their state ID cards. Authorities say they possessed too many plants and didn’t keep them in an enclosed, locked facility as required.

A lower court initially dismissed the charges, but Michigan Appeals Court Judge Peter O’Connell agreed with a decision to reinstate the charges and warned Michigan’s “inartfully drafted” medical marijuana law needs changes.  In fact, he suggested all Michigan citizens avoid using marijuana or risk violating state law. The case is now heading to Michigan Supreme Court, and the couple’s defense attorney has called on the judiciary to resolve “beleaguering” interpretive issues

 

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