Two Years After Ter Beek, Nothing’s Changed

 

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We are a nation of laws. In a country with roughly 325 million people, we must respect and rely on our laws to prevent the breakdown of our civilization. The idea is that when a high court speaks, we fall in line, regardless of our personal beliefs. Sometimes implementation of these decisions goes smoothly, as it did with the same sex marriage decision, and sometimes it’s a rockier road. Unfortunately, two years after the Michigan Supreme Court told the state’s local governments that they could not ban the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) protected conduct, we still face an impassable rockslide.

Remember that the MMMA passed in all 83 Michigan counties, but talk to a City Council member or municipal attorney and they will tell you privately that “they don’t think this is what the voters meant.” You know what? I agree. I am positive that the voters did not mean to direct our elected representatives to make medical cannabis safely available for Michigan residents and then watch them sit on their hands and actively ignore their constituents for seven years.

The pushback is palpable. Even in municipalities that have begrudgingly acknowledged that a patient may use and grow medical cannabis in their own residence, severe restrictions have been adopted and enforced against patients and caregivers in their own homes. Commercial land use ordinances are virtually non-existent. Few of the original, now invalid, ordinance bans have been repealed, and prospective building owners and tenants are routinely informed that “we don’t recognize marihuana as a legal land use in our city.” In the very few municipalities that have permitted uses or adopted land use ordinances for the cultivation of medical cannabis, the zoning is often so restrictive that it operates as a de facto ban, making so little industrial property available that real estate prices skyrocket from demand, and the incentive to move out of residential zones dissipates. In a move that defies logic, Sumpter Township just banned cultivation of cannabis in its agricultural zones. Say that out loud a few times, “No growing cannabis plants on agricultural land.”

In an effort to keep those icky cannabis people out of their pristine communities, municipalities have decidedly ignored our Supreme Court, the MMMA and the will of their voters, refusing to acknowledge that local ordinances do not supersede state law, that the personal opinions of elected officials and unelected administrators do not supersede the will of the people, and that continuing to engage in egregiously unconstitutional restrictions on patients and caregivers is a fundamental contravention of representative democracy. Adding insult to injury, in a colossal waste of time and resources, your elected representatives are routinely using your tax dollars to pay attorneys to fight back against you.

What continues to amaze and exasperate is that they are getting away with it. At some point, the medical cannabis community’s patience is going to finally run out, and caregivers and patients will start demanding that their local elected representatives read the Ter Beek memo. In our nation of laws, it should not take more court battles and more elections to encourage our local governments to do the right thing.

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