A Wayne County judge has dismissed the legal challenge of a Livonia city ordinance which the American Civil Liberties Union has charged amounts to a ban on medical-marijuana use.
But Livonia officials said the ordinance will help to keep their community free of crime that is attracted by marijuana users.
The 29-page ruling from Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Baxter lets the city to enforce a zoning ordinance that forbids violating any federal law — including drug laws that criminalize possession of marijuana. Although Livonia’s mayor said the zoning ordinance should not stop legitimate medical-marijuana users from using the drug in their homes, Livonia’s city attorney said anyone who does could face arrest.
“We’ve said from the beginning that somebody who’s a legitimate user and not engaging in a business (involving marijuana) is not going to be a target” of Livonia police, City Attorney Donald Knapp said.
“But if somehow law enforcement comes upon you (using marijuana), you could be prosecuted,” Knapp said today. Baxter’s ruling was released Wednesday afternoon, he said.
Livonia’s ordinance is not a criminal statute but instead governs land use, “to keep marijuana businesses — grow operations — from sprouting up in the neighborhoods, in our industrial corridors and next to every little pizzeria,” Knapp said.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette intervened in the case on Livonia’s behalf, and the city’s leaders “greatly appreciated that,” Mayor Jack Kirksey said. Kirksey said he called Schuette on Wednesday to thank him.
“We’re not in any way trying to stop those people who legitimately use marijuana and find it tempers their pain. But we think it brings a certain criminal element and diminishes the quality of life in a community,” Kirksey said today.
ACLU lawyers challenged the ordinance on behalf of a Birmingham couple, Linda and Robert Lott, who wanted to raise medical marijuana in the Livonia warehouse they own. The couple plans to appeal, ACLU attorney Dan Korobkin said.
The couple’s challenge to nearly identical statutes in Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills, said to be modeled after the Livonia ordinance, is under way in Oakland County Circuit Court, Korobkin said today.
“All of these ordinances say the same thing: ‘No violating federal law in our town.’ And all of those ordinances were specifically enacted to block the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which is exactly what the act says that (a local community) can’t do,” Korobkin said.
Linda Lott has battled multiple sclerosis for nearly 30 years, she said in December, when the couple’s lawsuit was filed. At that time, she said that the ordinances in the three communities were forcing her to “choose between being a criminal or being in pain.”
Lott challenged the ordinance in Birmingham because she lives there, and challenged the one in Bloomfield Hills because she liked to spend hours a day at a private club there and must use marijuana occasionally during the day to quell her disease symptoms, the couple said.
Both Lotts said they possessed state approval cards from the Michigan Department of Community Health to use medical marijuana. The ACLU has argued that Linda Lott, who is blind and uses a wheelchair, experiences painful and relentless muscle spasms that can’t be controlled by conventional medicines. Medical marijuana could help, but the couple have said they fear arrest and prosecution by local officials if they grow or use medical marijuana in any of the three communities they sued.
ACLU officials said today they were disappointed by the ruling.
“This judge … forces Linda and her husband, along with countless other patients, to make an untenable choice between health care and potentially their freedom. It’s exactly the choice that Michigan voters wanted to keep patients from having to make when they approved the act” in 2008, Korobkin said.