Metro Detroit communities sued over medical pot

Community officials across the region have spent countless hours in the last year debating how to regulate medical marijuana.

Now, some are spending legal fees defending lawsuits.

Royal Oak, whose ban on growing medical marijuana starts today, was sued last week, and another lawsuit is expected to be filed against the city this week. Also sued recently by medical-marijuana patients in metro Detroit were Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, Livonia and Lyon Township.

“This is going to keep happening, and we’re going to spend legal fees while we’re laying off police officers,” Royal Oak City Commissioner Jim Rasor said.

Rasor said the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act “is perfectly clear” in establishing Michiganders’ rights to use, grow and distribute medical marijuana. But he was in the minority of the 4-3 vote on the city’s ordinance change, passed last month, to ban growing medical marijuana in Royal Oak.

After dozens of citizens signed a petition asking for a complete ban on the drug, city commissioners sided with allowing its use but banning its cultivation, saying that the state law voters passed in 2008 was vague and could lead to drug dealing in the city.

Michigan’s new attorney general, Bill Schuette, said through a spokesman last week that he agreed.

“The law is an absolute disaster,” Schuette spokesman John Selleck said. “It has created the No. 1 growth industry in Michigan, but these are not the kind of jobs we need. Our attorneys are looking at the issue right now to determine the best ways the law could be clarified.”

It’s too soon to say when the attorney general might issue an opinion on medical marijuana, he said. Such an opinion would not be binding on the courts, but it would help guide community leaders on the issue, Royal Oak City Attorney Dave Gillam said.

Gillam said he and the city’s planning director hope to resolve a mushrooming legal quandary with their ordinance change: whether residents who are state-approved patients can continue to grow the drug in their homes and be grandfathered in to the new city zoning amendment, if they’ve grown the drug before, Gillam said.

Royal Oak officials admitted that they failed to anticipate the problem of grandfathering existing growers, who are guaranteed confidentiality by the state Medical Marijuana Act, Grosse Pointe attorney Paul Tylenda said.

He represents Steven Greene, a resident of Lyon Township, who filed a lawsuit last month against the community to challenge its total ban on medical marijuana use, Tylenda said.

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