In Michigan last November, we saw several versions of cities taking it upon themselves to change how their citizens can lawfully use marijuana. These cities, like Kalamazoo and Detroit, passed ordinances that made pot less criminal than the state laws dictated. And there, it ruffled feathers and left law enforcement scratching their heads. Now, the Supreme Court has chosen to hear a similar case, but this one has the city being more restrictive than the state.
In Michigan, patients with certain chronic conditions can have access to medical marijuana through licensed caregivers. The laws were passed in 2008 to make it so. But, not everyone is on board with any liberal acceptance of pot. As a matter of fact, the town of Wyoming would prefer the law not been passed—so much so, they’ve taken it upon themselves to essentially negate it.
In November 2010, the city council of Wyoming, Michigan passed an ordinance that has proven to make medical marijuana inaccessible to its residents. The ban said medical marijuana could only come from pharmacists. The problem with that is that Michigan pharmacists aren’t authorized to dispense marijuana, something the city council was 100% aware of.
One local medical marijuana patient began fighting the ordinance as soon as it was passed. John Ter Beek filed a lawsuit saying the ordinance was in conflict with the will of the voters. A Kent County Circuit Court Judge ruled in favor of the city. Ter Beek appealed and a state Court of Appeals agreed that the ordinance was illegal. Now, the Supreme Court of the United States will take up the issue.
In their decision to hear the case, according to MLive.com, the justices said they want to hear from both sides on whether the ordinance is subject to pre-emption by the state medical marijuana law. If so, then they want to hear whether the state law is subject to pre-emption by the federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal drug.
The case is one that will be watched by marijuana advocates and opponents alike across the country.
If a city can disregard the will of the voters and pass its own ordinances that conflict with state law (a loss for patients like Ter Beek), can the state then pass laws that conflict with federal statutes (a win for marijuana advocates everywhere)? It’s a sticky issue that will not be simple to solve.
Until it is, Michigan is filled with a slightly patchwork system of marijuana laws—from those in Wyoming that govern medical usage to those in cities where the substance has been decriminalized altogether. If you are charged with a marijuana offense, you need someone who understands these different laws and how they affect you.