Lawsuit in Bloomfield may help define marijuana ordinance
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
By MIKE SCOTT
Special to The Oakland Press
Pending litigation against Bloomfield Township for its existing marijuana ordinance could set a precedent for how such ordinances are formed in the future.
In October, the township finalized the language of an ordinance that requires residents with medical marijuana cards to register with the township.
The ordinance covers people with state-issued cards to use or to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes. That language was added to the ordinance to increase the safety of residents and public safety officials, township officials say.
However attorneys representing two residents believe it is an invasion of privacy.
That ordinance language is illegal, says attorney Thomas Loeb, managing partner of his own Farmington Hills law firm. Loeb and Southfield attorney Neil Rockind are suing Bloomfield Township on behalf of two anonymous clients who Loeb says do have state approval to use and/or grow medicinal marijuana.
“The state law gives my client the (certified right) to use it,” Loeb said. “There are many issues with this ordinance, but the very root of our concern is that it could prevent my client from using their medicine without fear of (arrest).”
The Bloomfield Township ordinance is the only one in the state that takes such “drastic” steps to “infringe upon the rights of residents,” Loeb said.
Municipalities around the area have handled the issue in different ways. Some have set moratoriums for further ordinance decisions, while Livonia, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and others have created ordinance language to ban anything not made legal by the state law.
The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, voted into law by state residents in November 2008, gives confidentiality to state-approved patients, growers and caregivers, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health.
But the ordinance that requires any residents with such approval to register with Bloomfield Township shouldn’t impact that state law because it is a public safety issue, said Bloomfield Township Supervisor Dave Payne.
“It took us some time to finalize the language because we really wanted to create a measure of safety while considering residential rights,” Payne said. “Our police officers really need to know who has (state-approved cards) when they make a call. It helps protect them and the residents.”
A motion will be filed to dismiss the case, or in lieu of that will request that the names of the plaintiffs be divulged by early February, said William Hampton, Bloomfield’s Township legal counsel and a senior partner with the Farmington Hills law firm of Secrest Wardle. Hampton has worked closely with township officials to create the existing ordinance language.
“The township is of the opinion that we are entitled to know who these residents are,” Hampton said.
Requiring the registration of township residents who use or grow medical marijuana should be voluntary, Loeb said. He is of the opinion that the ordinance violates state law, and therefore should not be allowed.
He also said the privacy rights of township residents are being infringed upon.
The outcome of this legal action could set a legal precedent in Michigan, Loeb said. “I think we will win this case and when we do it will have an impact on what other municipalities can require,” Loeb said.
However local registration was discussed by Hampton and members of Bloomfield Township’s administration and board of trustees.
“What (the courts) have to consider is whether the state law pre-empts the ability of (municipalities) to set such guidelines in their ordinances,” Hampton said. He expects that it may eventually appear before the Michigan Supreme Court. If so, a decision could provide clearer guidance for how the medical marijuana law is followed throughout the state.
“We need to have clarity in this medical marijuana law for the courts,” Hampton said. “Right now, the way the law is written it is a mess.”
Bloomfield Township has until mid-January to file its own response to the matter. The ordinance originally went into effect on Oct. 31.
Under the Bloomfield Township ordinance, residents who register as medical marijuana approved users or growers will not have their personal information made public under the Freedom of Information Act, Hampton said.
Neil Rockind and Neil Rockind, P.C. concentrate in criminal defense and medical marijuana defense. Our lawyers represent clinics, dispensaries, growers, caregivers, patients and advocacy groups. The People of this State agree that marijuana is a form of medicine. Law enforcement isn’t acting like it . . . if you or a loved one is accused of a marijuana violation, please fee free to contact us at 248.208.3800 or email our staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.