ACLU Urges Oakland County Cities to Respect Rights of Medical Marijuana Patients

July 29, 2010

Detroit – In a letter today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan urged Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham officials to uphold the rights of medical marijuana patients by clarifying or rescinding city ordinances that violate Michigan’s medical marijuana law.

“The people of Michigan voted overwhelmingly in support of compassionate care for patients whose pain can be eased by the use of medical marijuana,” said Dan Korobkin, staff attorney with the ACLU of Michigan. “Patients shouldn't be forced to give up their rights under state law just because they live in Bloomfield Hills or Birmingham.”

In 2008, the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act was approved on a statewide ballot. Sixty-three percent of voters approved the law statewide, including 70 percent of voters in Birmingham and 62 percent of voters in Bloomfield Hills. This year, however, both cities' commissions enacted ordinances that make it a crime to engage in activity that is “contrary to federal, state or local laws.” Although the ordinances make no mention of medical marijuana, it is clear from media reports and meeting minutes that the purpose of both ordinances is to criminalize medical marijuana, which is still illegal under federal law.

In its 4-page letters, the ACLU noted that the U.S. Justice Department has announced that it will not prosecute patients and caregivers who comply with their states' medical marijuana laws and the voters of Michigan specifically chose to permit Michigan residents with certain ailments to use medical marijuana when recommended by their physician. . By enacting a complete ban on all medical marijuana, Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills are flouting state law and ignoring federal drug policy.

“This is a democracy, and the people have spoken,” said Korobkin. "City commissioners do not have a veto power over state laws they happen to disagree with."

Under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, registered patients have the right to use medical marijuana based upon a doctor's recommendation. In addition, registered caregivers have the right to provide medical marijuana for up to five patients. The law also guarantees that patients and caregivers who comply with the state law will not be "subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner."

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