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Michigan Supreme Court Hears Argument on Major Cases for Medical Marijuana

Steve Delie

On October 3, 2019, the Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Christie DeReuiter v Township of Byron. The focus of these arguments was whether Byron Township’s zoning regulation of medical marijuana was in conflict with the 2008 Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (“MMMA”). Although no decision has yet been issued, the Supreme Court’s treatment of this case will have statewide implications on medical marijuana patients and caregivers.

The facts of the case are relatively straightforward. Ms. DeRuiter is a licensed caregiver under the MMMA, and sought to cultivate medical marijuana for her patients within Byron Township. The Township, however, had passed a zoning ordinance, which limits the permissible uses of land within the Township. Byron Township’s zoning ordinance permitted caregivers to operate in any dwelling throughout the Township, but forbade caregivers from operating in commercial buildings. Ms. DeRuiter attempted to lease a commercial building for her caregiver activities, but the Township informed her that this was forbidden. A lawsuit followed, which eventually reached the Michigan Court of Appeals.

In reviewing the case, the Court of Appeals concluded that the Township’s ordinance conflicted with the MMMA. The Court determined that, since the MMMA only required caregiver activities to occur within an “enclosed, locked facility,” any further restriction by a municipality conflicted with the MMMA. Practically, this ruling essentially prevented municipalities from regulating caregiver operations throughout the State.

The Township appealed, arguing that the ordinance’s restrictions did not inherently conflict with the MMMA. The Township suggested that, since caregiver activities could still occur in enclosed, locked facilities in the appropriate areas, it was compliant with the MMMA. Ms. Deruiter disagreed. From her perspective, the requirement that medical marijuana cultivation occur within an enclosed, locked facility reflected the legislature’s intent that any other restrictions by local government were impermissible. In other words, a municipal restriction on caregiver operations occurring within an enclosed, locked facility (regardless of zoning district) would be illegal.

The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will have significant statewide impacts on the patient/caregiver dynamic. As things currently stand, local municipal control of that dynamic is essentially impossible. If the Supreme Court were to reverse the Court of Appeal’s decision, however, local municipalities would have significant power to limit where caregiver activities could occur, which could severely impact the ability of patients to obtain access to much-needed medicine.

The oral arguments on the Township’s request for leave to appeal can be viewed here. Please stay tuned to our website for updates on this important decision.

Contact Grewal Law PLLC today for a free introductory consultation to discuss the ways our office can assist you.

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