Drug Law

ACLU Sues Michigan Towns that Ban Medical Marijuana

| by NORML
By "Radical" Russ Belville

The cities of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and Livonia are being sued by the ACLU of Michigan for violating the rights of a 61-year-old woman battling multiple sclerosis.  Linda Lott, a resident of Birmingham, uses medical marijuana to battle the progression of her disease, which causes severe pain and back spasms.

Michigan passed a statewide medical marijuana law in 2008 with 62% of the voters in favor.  The initiative passed in all 83 Michigan counties.

Despite the law, the three cities named came up with ordinances to ban medical marijuana within their borders, using the federal illegality of marijuana to make their case. In the city of Livonia, an ordinance was amended to make any business illegal if it is violation of “local, state, or federal law.”

According to the Detroit News:

Livonia Police Chief Bob Stevenson said from conversations he’s had with federal drug officials, dispensing marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Stevenson said the new ordinance, passed in July, prohibits marijuana dispensaries from obtaining a license to operate in the Wayne County suburb.

“We don’t want to be in the position of sanctioning something that is in violation of federal law,” Stevenson said. “These dispensaries are a business — a million-dollars business … because it’s such a valuable crop. It’s worth a lot.”

Michigan’s medical marijuana law allows for the compensation of caregivers.  Many medical marijuana dispensaries have been operating under this law across the state and for patients like Linda Lott who cannot grow their own, they are a necessity.  However, the Michigan law doesn’t specifically address the existence of dispensaries as businesses, leading local leaders with more restrictive interpretation of what constitutes a “caregiver” to act to ban the businesses.

In addition to the three cities named in the ACLU of Michigan lawsuit, Grand Rapids, Niles, Roseville, Royal Oak, and Saginaw have all considered or enacted moratoriums or bans on medical marijuana dispensaries.