The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that local governments cannot penalize what the state has protected under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. The case could have a broad impact across the state and could allow qualified patients to gain more protection under the statute.
After Michigan voters approved the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) in 2008, the City of Wyoming passed an ordinance saying:
Uses that are contrary to federal law, state law or local ordinance are prohibited.
The penalty for violating the ordinance was a civil infraction resulting in fines or an injunction.
A resident and qualifying patient under the MMMA challenged the ordinance, claiming that the state statute “preempted” the local ban by saying:
Registered qualifying patients “shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner . . . for the medical use of marihuana in accordance with” the MMMA.
The city responded that the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in turn preempted the state statute, and allowed the local ordinance to enforce the federal prohibition on marijuana use.
Under the US Constitution, federal laws supersede state statutes if they are conflicting or if the federal law is written in a way that “occupies the field,” as with the approval of medical treatments. The Michigan Supreme Court found that the CSA does not occupy the field. In fact, it preserves the states’ ability to pass laws regarding drug use unless a person could not follow both state and federal law or the state law interferes with federal enforcement of federal law.
The MMMA does not affect the enforcement of the CSA. It only grants protection from punishment under state laws. The Drug Enforcement Agency still has the power to prosecute medical marijuana users in Michigan. Nor does the MMMA require something that the CSA prohibits since a person can choose not to use marijuana and comply with both laws. Since the laws do not directly conflict, they can coexist and the MMMA is not preempted by the CSA.
Next the Court turned to the local ordinance. The question was similar, but the results were different: did the ordinance permit something that the state law prohibits? This time there was a conflict. The ordinance allowed penalties in the form of civil infractions and injunctions against the use of medical marijuana. The MMMA prevented that or any other penalty from being imposed on qualified patients acting within the limits of the statute. Finding that a conflict existed, the Michigan Supreme Court struck down the ordinance and allowed residents of Wyoming to use medical marijuana within the limits of the MMMA.
This opinion opens doors for additional lawsuits under the MMMA, including challenges to bond conditions and terms of probation that impose penalties for the violation of “any federal, state, or local law.” If you have been ordered not to use medical marijuana, contact attorney Lisa J. Schmidt for a consultation.