Lawsuit challenges Troy medical marijuana caregiver ordinance

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published May 16, 2018

TROY — The Cannabis Legal Group, on behalf of caregiver marijuana grow operations on Austin Drive, has filed suit against the city of Troy, stating that a recent ordinance limiting the number of marijuana growing facility licenses and allowing police inspections violates state law. 

The lawsuit was e-filed in Oakland County Circuit Court May 9 on behalf of ZCI Group, of which Zoran Bogdanovic is the sole member, and Ghazwan Saffo. 

The City Council unanimously approved the Marihuana Grow Operation License Ordinance April 23. 

The city did not previously have a licensing ordinance, but rather issued certificates of occupancy through the Building Department before the council issued a moratorium on new facilities in April 2017. 

Before the moratorium, the city granted 78 occupancy permits allowing medical marijuana caregiver grow operations. 

State statute, the Michigan Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act, empowers municipalities to opt in to allow commercial medical marijuana facilities in their communities, and it allows local police access to a statewide registry of patients and caregivers. The new city ordinance allows police to conduct inspections of the facilities and caps the number of facilities at 36. 

“The ordinance attempts to regulate and prohibit conduct that has been previously authorized by the city and that is expressly authorized by state law since 2008, namely MMMA (Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008),” the lawsuit states. 

Barton W. Morris Jr., founder of the Cannabis Legal Group, said the city ordinance also violates the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act — which provides for the adoption of zoning ordinances and the establishment of zoning districts — by limiting the operations to industrial zoning districts. 

“The city can’t tell a caregiver where they can grow,” Morris Jr. said. He said state law mandates that before a zoning ordinance is enacted, municipalities must hold public hearings before the Planning Commission. 

“Taking of a property right and attempting to reduce (licenses) to 36, that in itself is in violation,” he said. 

The lawsuit states that the plaintiffs are entitled to continue their lawful use of the buildings at the properties, as that use existed at the time the ordinance was enacted, and that the plaintiffs substantially relied on the city’s issuance of certificates of occupancy to invest “great amounts of time, money and resources into the properties.” Also, it states that the plaintiffs have suffered substantial monetary damages as a result of the ordinance. 

The lawsuit asserts that the police inspections the ordinance authorizes violate Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure. 

The Cannabis Legal Group asked Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Leo Bowman for an injunction to stop implementation of the ordinance and for attorney fees and costs. 

The Cannabis Legal Group created the Michigan Business Collective of Troy, which is funding the lawsuit and which comprises building owners, caregivers and patients who are impacted by the ordinance. 

Bowman denied the injunction and set a show cause hearing for May 23. 

Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm described the city ordinance as “fairly aggressive,” and she said police have legitimate authority to perform inspections of the marijuana caregivers’ grow facilities. 

“We would not have presented the ordinance unless we thought it would withstand scrutiny,” she said.