The Tyrone Township Board of Trustees addressed a concern that has been an issue for every municipality in Michigan since 2008: how should townships and cities deal with medical marijuana? And, like many other municipalities around the state, there isn’t a definitive answer.
“The state is still making adjustments to the legislation,” said Trustee Steve Hasbrouck on why the township has yet to draft an ordinance. The board voted in favor of extending a moratorium. However, as Supervisor Mike Cunningham said, the township will have to make a decision in the near future. A moratorium is a period of delay on legal action.
Since its inception in 2008, the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) has drawn fierce debate between supporters and state lawmakers. A Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in August 2011 that dispensaries — businesses that sold medical marijuana to state registered card holders — were not covered by the MMMA. Last month, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that MMMA protects patients from prosecution.
“Section 4 of the MMMA provides qualified registered patients broad immunity from ‘arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner,’” the court said of their decision.
Linden City Attorney Charles McKone said the city of Linden currently has an ordinance banning marijuana, as the substance is still illegal under state and federal law. Marijuana users, medical or not, are arrested within the city. McKone said it is up to a judge to decide if an individual is protected by the MMMA.
“Most attorneys believe Michigan’s medical marijuana statute is in violation of federal law. Consequently, to allow an ordinance that breaks federal law just seems wrong,” McKone said. “MMMA does not automatically give someone the right to use or possess marijuana.” McKone said he and most other attorneys believe the Michigan Supreme Court will eventually rule the MMMA as unconstitutional.
However, if you ask some other members of the court system, marijuana may very likely become legal within Michigan. Genesee County 7th Circuit Court Judge Duncan Beagle said he wouldn’t be surprised if marijuana was legalized within the next five years or so, even if it were only for medicinal purposes.
“I’m not advocating it, but I think it’s just a matter of time before it is legalized,” Beagle said. “I think a lot of local officials are wrestling with this issue right now and many of them are finding it’s taking a lot of energy. That’s the issue policy makers are going to have to decide — do they have the time and energy to enforce these laws?”
Beagle said policy makers and authorities in Genesee County have other epidemics, like heroin, to address. Beagle compared medical marijuana to alcohol during prohibition in the 1920s, where people continued to consume alcohol even though it was illegal to do so.
No matter what legal experts expect to happen, local municipalities are still in a bind, having to choose whether medical marijuana will be allowed or excluded from their communities.
“There are two schools of thought on medical marijuana: ban it completely or regulate them tightly,” Tyrone Township Treasurer Keith Kremer said. Kremer questioned if prohibiting medical marijuana all together might cause liability issues for the township.
The board agreed the planning commission should work on some sort of ordinance while the state awaits a final decision from higher Michigan courts.
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