Commission approves local enforcement of transporting medical marijuana

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published October 28, 2015

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ROYAL OAK — City commissioners unanimously adopted an ordinance Oct. 19 to allow local enforcement of state laws that mandate how drivers may transport marijuana legally.

City officials said the measure is similar to adopting the driving while intoxicated city ordinance — taking a state law and adopting an ordinance so the violation could be enforced locally instead of having to go through the county prosecutor’s office.

“Then we could just simply write a violation and handle it over at our district court,” said Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue.

Interim City Attorney Mark Liss said the new ordinance addresses a bit of a problem that the Police Department and the City Attorney’s Office have encountered in prosecuting people who have medical marijuana licenses but who are transporting the marijuana inside the vehicle in an easily accessible location. 

Liss stated in a memo, “Because the Royal Oak criminal ordinance prohibiting the possession of marijuana encompasses only the possession of marijuana, the City Attorney’s Office has been unable to bring criminal charges for improper transportation of medical marijuana within the city.”

The state of Michigan adopted legislation in 2013 regulating the transportation of medical marijuana.

“It requires that medical marijuana be transported in a similar fashion to a firearm, which is it has to be in the trunk or an area not accessible from the passenger side and it has to be locked,” Liss said.

He said there has been some controversy regarding similarly passed local ordinances and enforcement, but it has not been ruled unconstitutional.

Liss stated that the addition of the improper transportation of marijuana law to the Royal Oak code would provide officers with additional tools and leverage to conduct a search. Without a Royal Oak equivalent to the state law, probable cause to search a vehicle is negated when the driver or passengers produce their authorization to use medical marijuana, and they are not transporting more than the legal amount or driving under the influence.

With the newly adopted ordinance, an officer would be able to make an arrest and conduct a search if the authorized medical marijuana users cannot demonstrate that they are properly transporting their marijuana, regardless of whether the amount they possess is legal.

“It will make prosecution of these crimes a little more efficient,” Liss said.

City officials also said the passage of the new ordinance would make the city a safer place, as the transportation of the drug poses greater risks and threats to public safety than simple possession.

Violation of the new city law would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $500.

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