Medical Marijuana

Local Medical Marijuana Bans Go to Court in Michigan, California

Last gasp of prohibition?

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The Michigan Supreme Court agreed last week to weigh a medical marijuana ban put in place by lawmakers in a Grand Rapids suburb called Wyoming. The case comes out of a lawsuit brought by a Wyoming resident, a medical marijuana patient with diabetes, who challenged a 2010 ordinance that makes cultivation of marijuana plants a violation of local zoning laws.  The town won in a district court, then lost on appeal, and now the state's highest court will hear the case.

Like a lot of things involving marijuana legalization, the question of whether local governments can opt out of pot laws is anything but settled. Towns and cities all over the country have passed laws banning the sale of pot, but in most places there aren't enough dispensaries or patients to challenge them, says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the marijuana advocacy group Norml. Only in Michigan and California have the cases made headway in the legal system. Residents of the California town of Riverside are currently waiting for the state supreme court to decide whether lawmakers' four-year ban on pot clubs is lawful—a ruling that's expected next month. The outcome of these cases will have implications not only for the 200 California towns and the three Michigan cities that have passed blanket bans, but for many other states where pot businesses are springing up.