Council extends Medical Marijuana Moratorium
Tecumseh City Council approved the extension of the current Medical Marijuana Moratorium for an additional 180 days beyond the expiration date of October 14, or until an amendment of the Zoning Ordinance and other applicable codes is adopted, whichever comes first. The vote followed acceptance of a recommendation by the Tecumseh Planning Commission, which has been working on an ordinance.
Tecumseh City Manager Kevin Welch noted that the moratorium does not restrict the use of marijuana by qualified patients as long as it is done within the guidelines set forth in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008.
“The resolution is to extend the moratorium another six months or until the court case in question is heard,” said Welch.
In a memo to council, Welch, who has worked with a committee made up of City Attorney Scott Baker, Police Chief Troy Stern, and Building Official Brad Raymond on the matter, outlined several factors that impact the direction communities take in developing an ordinance. “Originally, we were working on an ordinance to restrict or regulate dispensaries or businesses that sell marijuana, but that’s no longer an issue because court cases have made the decisions that were needed,” Welch added. He said recent cases have now addressed where allowed growing activities can occur and the Michigan law does not allow for these activities as dispensaries or businesses that sell marijuana, and some enforcement activities have begun to take place within the area involving businesses that operated outside the parameters of the act.
Welch said the city could still develop an ordinance regulating the number of qualified caregivers that may produce and distribute medical marijuana to their patients in zoning districts. One court case in particular is being watched by many, John Ter Beek v. City of Wyomong et al. The case is pending before the Michigan Supreme Court and will address the preemption issue.
“The biggest question is does federal law — the Controlled Substances Act — preempt the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008,” Baker said following the meeting. “The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan and others have been invited by the court to provide briefs even though they are not parties to the case. The court is getting several perspectives. That’s not uncommon when it’s a case of public import and involving policy such as this.”
The court case has not yet been scheduled for oral arguments, but it is believed that the outcome of the case will have implications at the local level, including whether it is necessary to continue to consider zoning options on the matter.
Welch’s Medical Marijuana Update memo also mentioned that an additional development involved the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Deputy Attorney General memo sent to all U.S. Attorneys regarding marijuana enforcement. Part of the memo reads: “The Department’s guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health and other law enforcement interests. A system adequate to that task must not only contain robust controls and procedures on paper; it must also be effective in practice.”
The same memo outlined eight priorities for federal prosecutors enforcing marijuana laws. According to the guidance, Department of Justice will still prosecute individuals or entities to prevent:
• the distribution of marijuana to minors;
• revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
• the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
• state-authorized marijuana activity form being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
• violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana;
• drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
• growing of marijuana on public lands and the associated public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands; and
• preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.
City officials hope that the case before the Michigan Supreme Court will clarify what powers, if any, local units of government have, and are keeping an eye on whether it will settle the question of federal preemption of the MMMA.