ACLU Joins Lawsuit Against City of Wyoming For Banning Medical Marijuana

December 16, 2010

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan announced today that it will represent a registered patient who is challenging the City of Wyoming’s ordinance banning medical marijuana in direct violation of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. The lawsuit was originally filed in November by John Ter Beek, a medical marijuana patient who fears being penalized by local officials if he grows or uses medical marijuana in compliance with state law.

“It’s disappointing that elected officials in the City of Wyoming are so quick to ignore the will of the people who overwhelmingly voted for compassionate care for patients like John whose pain is eased by the use of medical marijuana,” said Michael Nelson, ACLU of Michigan cooperating attorney. “Our goal is to uphold the rights of patients and caregivers who have done nothing wrong, but are treated like criminals by local officials.”

The ordinance was adopted by the Wyoming City Council against the advice of their city attorney and despite a public outcry. Ter Beek, a retired attorney and medical marijuana patient who suffers from diabetes and a neurological disorder that causes neuropathy and severe pain, filed a lawsuit in November challenging the ordinance. In an amended complaint filed today, the ACLU joined the lawsuit.

“The fact is medical marijuana helps people; it’s helped me,” said Ter Beek. “I’ve tried narcotic-based drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin and nothing worked like medical marijuana. I have more freedom than ever before and I can’t just sit by as our elected officials try to take that away from me and thousands of others.”

In 2008, the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act was approved on a statewide ballot. Sixty-three percent of voters approved the law statewide, including 59 percent of voters in Wyoming. The Wyoming ordinance, while not specifically mentioning medical marijuana, prohibits any violations of federal law. Because medical marijuana is still technically illegal under federal law, the city used this terminology to ban medical marijuana.

The federal government, however, does not prosecute patients and caregivers who comply with their states' medical marijuana laws, and the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act specifically states that registered patients and their caregivers "shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner" for growing, possessing, or using medical marijuana.

Just 5 days before Wyoming adopted its ordinance, the ACLU of Michigan filed a similar lawsuit against the cities of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and Livonia. The ACLU sent a copy of that lawsuit to Wyoming city officials prior to their vote. Both lawsuits ask that the city ordinances be declared invalid and unenforceable against medical marijuana patients and caregivers who comply with the state law.

In addition to Nelson, Ter Beek is represented by ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael J. Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan staff attorneys Miriam Aukerman and Dan Korobkin, and ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary L. Moss.

Read the amended complaint (pdf)
Read more about the lawsuit challenging ordinances in Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and Livonia
Read more about the ACLU of Michigan's medical marijuana legal docket (pdf)

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