WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) - Local communities do not have the right to ban what voters said yes to.
The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the City of Wyoming cannot ban its residents from using medical marijuana if they follow the state rules.
"I think it's matter of democracy. And that should concern all of the people," said John Ter Beek, a lawyer, medical marijuana user and Wyoming resident who sued the city after they initiated the ban in 2011.
Ter Beek said the drug, which he eats in brownie form or smokes, helps him deal with chronic pain.
He grows the plants in a small room in his basement.
"It's empty now, but it won't be for long, after the ruling," said Ter Beek.
Most local communities attempting to regulate the use of medical marijuana have done so within the law. Others have been watching what happens with Wyoming's attempt at an outright ban on a drug.
Attorneys for Wyoming had argued the ban was legal because the state's medical marijuana law, passed by voters in 2008, contradicts federal law which recognizes marijuana as an illegal drug.
A Kent County Circuit Court judge upheld the ban, but the three-judge appellate panel overruled it.
Cooley Law School Professor Curt Benson said while the U.S. Congress has ruled marijuana isn't legal, the federal government doesn't give local government any authority to enforce the federal law.
"Bottom line is the cities cannot pass ordinance that conflict with state statues," said Benson.
Wyoming's case is the latest challenge to a law critics say is vague and even clumsily written.
"Basically, the Michigan legislature has left it to the courts to write this law," said Benson. "That's the bottom line."
Beyond the issue of a city banning something voters approved, there's the cost of trying to get it overturned in the courts.
Wyoming's City Manager said the City has spent less than $3, 000 in taxpayer money so far on their case.
It will be up to the city council to decide if it wants to continue to make Wyoming the test case for the handful of other communities in Michigan that have issued outright bans by appealing to the Michigan Supreme Court.
Wyoming's mayor has vowed to use outside sources in the legal battle, like a legal defense fund run by an organization representing communities fighting the state law.
What would Benson do if he were the Wyoming City Attorney?
"I would say, 'Look, I hate to put it this way, but guys, it's legal. Get over it. Either work to have the constitution amended and taken out, or work within the law.'"
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