Macomb extends moratorium on medical marijuana

By: Jeremy Selweski | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published April 24, 2013

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Medical marijuana will remain prohibited in the township, at least until the Michigan Supreme Court takes action on a lawsuit out of the western part of the state that will have major local ramifications.

On April 10, the Macomb Township Board of Trustees voted unanimously to extend its current medical marijuana moratorium until the Supreme Court makes its decision on a pending case out of the city of Wyoming, a suburb of Grand Rapids. The township’s moratorium has been in effect since August 2012 and now will likely continue through at least October or November of this year.

According to Larry Dloski, legal counsel for the township, in response to Michigan voters’ approval of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act in November 2008, Macomb Township and a number of other communities across the state adopted amendments to their zoning ordinance, banning any local use that violates federal, state or county law.

As Dloski told the board, “Since marijuana is illegal according to federal law, any marijuana would have been illegal in Macomb Township, including medical marijuana.”

The township modeled its zoning ordinance after one adopted by the city of Wyoming in November 2010. However, Wyoming was subsequently sued by attorney and medical marijuana patient John Ter Beek, who argued that the city was defying the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act by prohibiting him from using medical marijuana. A Kent County Circuit Court judge ultimately ruled in favor of the city, contending that federal law preempts state law.

But then in July 2012, the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s decision. The Court of Appeals declared that Wyoming’s ordinance was “void and unenforceable to the extent that it purports to sanction the medical use of marijuana in conformity with the (Michigan Medical Marijuana Act).”

Wyoming then filed an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, which on April 3 agreed to hear the case. Dloski said that he expects the Supreme Court to issue its decision within the next six to eight months.

The court will determine “whether the defendant’s zoning ordinance … is subject to preemption by the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act — and that’s the exact same issue that faces Macomb Township’s ordinance,” he explained. “Therefore, I would recommend that the township adopt a moratorium (extension) on the growth, use, possession, sale and transportation of medical marijuana until such time that the Michigan Supreme Court decides the city of Wyoming case.”

In subsequent interviews, township officials concurred that this was the best course of action. “We patterned our own ordinance after the city of Wyoming’s ordinance, so this Supreme Court decision will affect us just as much as it affects them,” said Supervisor Janet Dunn. “But there’s really nothing new happening until then.”

Clerk Michael Koehs added that, in the meantime, he is not worried about someone attempting to sue Macomb Township on the same grounds as the Wyoming lawsuit.

“It wouldn’t do anyone any good to try to fight our ordinance right now,” he said. “No attorney would take the case because he would just tell them to wait until the Supreme Court makes its decision. So we’re all just sitting here ringside, waiting to hear what they’re going to say. Their decision will really be the final word on this particular methodology of handling medical marijuana.”

Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn contributed to this report.