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It has been ruled by a Washtenaw County Circuit Court judge that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act does not preempt local zoning laws regulating the production and distribution of the drug including zoning regarding were a medical marijuana grow can be established.

The ruling is significant as it is the first court challenge to zoning laws regulating medical marijuana in the state, says Ypsilanti Township’s attorney Dennis McLain.

(Read more: Medical Marijuana Know Your Rights)

Previous court challenges came against communities that have tried to ban medical marijuana use, production or distribution because it is still illegal federally.

The ruling comes as a part of the case against two Ypsilanti Township residents who were exporting an intense medical marijuana odor out of their home as a result of some variety of processing operation in their basement. The defendants deny it is an issue, though neighbors have complained about the odor.

The defendants, Michael Engle and Deborah Kochubar are also being charged by the township for exceeding the permitted allowance of medical marijuana allowed under the township’s zoning laws.

State law permits a person with a medical marijuana patient’s card to grow up to 12 plants for his or her personal use. Ypsilanti Township ordinance allows residents to grow their personal plants in residential zones.

Thus, The zoning law in Ypsilanti Township allows for a person to grow marijuana and thus be a caregiver for themselves but does not allow for that person to be a caregiver and thus grow marijuana for their other patients in residential zones.


Meanwhile, state laws allows registered caregivers to grow up to 72 plants for up to five patients and their own personal use. However, Ypsilanti Township’s zoning ordinance doesn’t allow caregivers to operate in residential zones, such as the defendants’.

(Related: How to Become a Medical Marijuana Patient)

Representing the defendants, attorney Eric Misterovich argued that state medical marijuana laws preempt local ordinances, and the township’s zoning ordinances regarding medical marijuana are not enforceable.

State law does not rule where medical marijuana can and cannot be grown, yet when Misterovich asked the Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge Archie Brown to dismiss the case, Brown disagreed with Misterovich’s assessment.

(Related: How Much Marijuana Can you Possess?)

“There are no provisions in the MMMA that prohibit municipalities from adopting zoning ordinances regulating where medical marijuana caregivers can grow and dispense marijuana for other patients,” Brown wrote in his ruling.

“This is a significant issue; whether densely populated neighborhoods can be taken over by medical marijuana grow operations. We’re definitely fighting that to the end,” McLain said.

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