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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Appeal possible after judge strikes down some voter-approved Detroit medical marijuana rules

marijuana bud
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The Michigan Court of Appeals struck down Brian Reed's medical marijuana legal defense today.

The legal confusion surrounding medical marijuana in Detroit has grown even more confusing with a judge’s surprise ruling last week.

Detroit voters passed two ballot proposals that laid out new rules governing how and where medical marijuana is permitted, transported, and sold in the city. It effectively overturned parts of an existing city ordinance that restricted where dispensaries could locate.

But last Friday, Wayne County Judge Robert Colombo struck down one of those proposals entirely, and invalidated parts of the other. He ruled that only local elected officials can make zoning decisions under state law.

The ruling was a surprise to many, particularly since Colombo ruled in September that the proposal laying out new, less restrictive zoning rules could go on the ballot, overturning a decision from Detroit's election commission. 

The group behind the ballot proposals is now weighing its options in the wake of the ruling, which came the same week Detroit put a 180-day moratorium on approving new medical marijuana permits and licenses, citing legal confusion around the issue.

Jonathan Barlow, a spokesman for Citizens for Sensible Cannabis Reform, said the group should decide this week whether it will appeal Colombo’s ruling.

The judge did uphold parts of one proposal, including a section that opted Detroit into new state rules on marijuana dispensaries. Barlow says that’s “key” because it let voters “push the envelope on making sure that the city recognizes their interest in the industry.”

Regardless of what happens next in court, Barlow says the group wants more formal dialogue with Detroit to reach a “consensus” on how the city will handle medical marijuana going forward.

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