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Christie DERUITER, Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant-Appellee, v. TOWNSHIP OF BYRON, Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff-Appellant, Michigan Townships Association and Michigan Municipal League, Amici Curiae.
Defendant appeals by right the trial court's order granting plaintiff summary disposition and declaring that defendant's ordinance conflicted with the provisions of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA),MCL 333.26421 et seq.; therefore, it was preempted. We affirm.
Defendant adopted its zoning ordinance regulations for land development and use under the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (MZEA),MCL 125.3101 et seq.. Use of property by a medical marijuana registered caregiver was permitted only under Byron Township Zoning Ordinance (Zoning Ordinance) §§ 3.2.G and H as a “home occupation.” Defendant prohibited registered caregivers from the medical use of marijuana in a commercial property. Zoning Ordinance § 3.2.H.3 required medical marijuana caregivers to submit an application and pay a fee to obtain a township permit before engaging in any medical use of marijuana. Violation of the provisions of the ordinance could result in revocation of the permit, which would require the caregiver to cease all medical marijuana activity until defendant granted a new permit.
Plaintiff, a registered qualified medical marijuana patient and a registered primary caregiver to qualifying patients, grew medical marijuana in an enclosed, locked facility at a commercial location within the township. On March 22, 2016, the township supervisor sent plaintiff a letter advising that plaintiff's medical-marijuana-related activities constituted a zoning violation. The letter ordered plaintiff to cease and desist all medical marijuana activities under threat of an enforcement action by defendant. Not long after, plaintiff sued defendant for declaratory and injunctive relief on the ground that defendant threatened her exercise of her rights and privileges under the MMMA despite her compliance with the MMMA. Plaintiff alleged that defendant's ordinance prohibited what the MMMA permitted. Consequently, it directly conflicted with the MMMA and required that the trial court hold that the MMMA preempted the ordinance.
Defendant countersued for enforcement of its ordinance and abatement of the nuisance. Defendant sought a declaratory judgment that its ordinance did not conflict with the MMMA.
The parties each moved for summary disposition. Both parties asserted that the dispositive issue was whether the MMMA preempted defendant's home-occupation ordinance. Plaintiff argued that the ordinance directly conflicted with the MMMA. Defendant asserted that preemption did not apply because its ordinance only restricted the location where MMMA-compliant activities could occur and did not prohibit them altogether. The trial court held that the ordinance directly conflicted with the MMMA, so the MMMA preempted the ordinance. Defendant now appeals.
“Whether a state statute preempts a local ordinance is a question of statutory interpretation and, therefore, a question of law that we review de novo.” Ter Beek v. City of Wyoming, 297 Mich. App. 446, 452, 823 N.W.2d 864 (2012) (Ter Beek I), aff'd 495 Mich. 1, 846 N.W.2d 531 (2014) (Ter Beek II). We also review de novo the trial court's decision to grant or deny a motion for summary disposition in an action for a declaratory judgment. Lansing Sch. Ed. Ass'n MEA/NEA v. Lansing Bd. of Ed. (On Remand), 293 Mich. App. 506, 512-513, 810 N.W.2d 95 (2011). We review for clear error any of the trial court's factual findings and review de novo the trial court's interpretation of the MMMA. Michigan v. McQueen, 293 Mich. App. 644, 653, 811 N.W.2d 513 (2011) (McQueen I).
Defendant argues that the trial court erred by holding that the MMMA preempted its home-occupation ordinance because the ordinance merely regulated land use by restricting the location of medical use of marijuana while allowing patients and caregivers to fully exercise their rights and privileges. We disagree.
“Under Const. 1963, art. 7, § 22, a Michigan municipality's power to adopt resolutions and ordinances relating to municipal concerns is ‘subject to the constitution and law.’ ” People v. Llewellyn, 401 Mich. 314, 321, 257 N.W.2d 902 (1977). “Michigan is strongly committed to the concept of home rule, and constitutional and statutory provisions which grant power to municipalities are to be liberally construed.” Bivens v. Grand Rapids, 443 Mich. 391, 400, 505 N.W.2d 239 (1993) (citations omitted). Local governments may control and regulate matters of local concern so long as their regulations do not conflict with state law. City of Taylor v. Detroit Edison Co., 475 Mich. 109, 117-118, 715 N.W.2d 28 (2006).
The MZEA provides, in relevant part:
A local unit of government may provide by zoning ordinance for the regulation of land development and ․ regulate the use of land and structures ․ to ensure that use of the land is situated in appropriate locations and ․ to promote public health, safety, and welfare. [MCL 125.3201(1).]
This Court explained in Ter Beek I, 297 Mich. App. at 453, 823 N.W.2d 864, that
[a] city ordinance that purports to prohibit what a state statute permits is void. A state statute preempts regulation by an inferior government when the local regulation directly conflicts with the statute or when the statute completely occupies the regulatory field. A direct conflict exists between a local regulation and state statute when the local regulation prohibits what the statute permits. [Quotation marks and citations omitted.]
The MMMA, an initiative law, governs medical marijuana use. “The words of an initiative law are given their ordinary and customary meaning as would have been understood by the voters.” McQueen I, 293 Mich. App. at 653, 811 N.W.2d 513 (quotation marks and citation omitted). This Court presumes that the electorate intended the meaning plainly expressed in the statute. Id.
Under MCL 333.26427(a), the “medical use of marijuana is allowed under state law to the extent that it is carried out in accordance with the provisions of [the MMMA].” MCL 333.26423(f), as amended by 2012 PA 512,1 defined the term “medical use” as follows:
[T]he acquisition, possession, cultivation, manufacture, use, internal possession, delivery, transfer, or transportation of marihuana or paraphernalia relating to the administration of marihuana to treat or alleviate a registered qualifying patient's debilitating medical condition or symptoms associated with the debilitating medical condition.
The MMMA provides immunity from arrest, prosecution, and penalty in any manner and prohibits the denial of any right or privilege to qualifying medical marijuana patients and registered primary caregivers. See MCL 333.26424(a) and (b); People v. Hartwick, 498 Mich. 192, 210-221, 870 N.W.2d 37 (2015). MCL 333.26424(b)(1) and (2) grant caregivers the right to possess 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana for each qualifying patient and cultivate and keep 12 marijuana plants for each qualifying patient in an enclosed, locked facility. In relevant part, MCL 333.26423(d) defines an “enclosed, locked facility” as “a closet, room, or other comparable, stationary, and fully enclosed area equipped with secured locks or other functioning security devices that permit access only by a registered primary caregiver or registered qualifying patient.”
MCL 333.26424(b)(1) and (2) and MCL 333.26423(d) are in pari materia and must be read together as one law because they are different provisions of a statute that relate to the same subject matter. Ter Beek I, 297 Mich. App. at 462, 823 N.W.2d 864. Under MCL 333.26424(d), a rebuttable presumption exists that primary caregivers and their qualified patients are engaged in the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the MMMA if they possess registry identification cards and possess an amount of medical marijuana that does not exceed the MMMA's permissible limits. Under MCL 333.26427(a), primary caregivers and their qualified patients are permitted the medical use of marijuana to the extent their use complies with the MMMA. The MMMA prohibits engagement in the medical use of marijuana in specified locations listed in MCL 333.26427(b), such as on school grounds, in school buses, or on any form of public transportation, as well as in correctional facilities or public places.
The MMMA also provides that “[a]ll other acts ․ inconsistent with this act do not apply to the medical use of marihuana as provided for by this act.” MCL 333.26427(e). Therefore, if another law is inconsistent with the MMMA such that it punishes MMMA-compliant medical use of marijuana, the MMMA controls and the person is immune from punishment. People v. Koon, 494 Mich. 1, 7, 832 N.W.2d 724 (2013).
This Court has noted that if the MMMA's “statutory language is unambiguous, ․ [n]o further judicial construction is required or permitted because we must conclude that the electors intended the meaning clearly expressed.” People v. Bylsma, 315 Mich. App. 363, 377-378, 889 N.W.2d 729 (2016) (citation and quotation marks omitted). “Judicial construction of a statute is only permitted when statutory language is ambiguous,” which occurs “only if it creates an irreconcilable conflict with another provision or it is equally susceptible to more than one meaning.” Noll v. Ritzer (On Remand), 317 Mich. App. 506, 511, 895 N.W.2d 192 (2016). If the language is clear and unambiguous, the plain meaning of the statute reflects the legislative intent and judicial construction is not permitted. Universal Underwriters Ins. Group v. Auto Club Ins. Ass'n, 256 Mich. App. 541, 544, 666 N.W.2d 294 (2003).
Consequently, a court “may not speculate regarding legislative intent beyond the words expressed in a statute. Hence, nothing may be read into a statute that is not within the manifest intent of the Legislature as derived from the act itself.” Detroit Pub. Sch. v. Conn., 308 Mich. App. 234, 248, 863 N.W.2d 373 (2014) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Courts may not infer legislative intent from the absence of action by the Legislature. McCahan v. Brennan, 492 Mich. 730, 749, 822 N.W.2d 747 (2012). A “legislature legislates by legislating, not by doing nothing, not by keeping silent.” Id. (quotation marks and citation omitted). Rather, correct interpretation of a statute like the MMMA requires (1) reading it as a whole, (2) reading the statute's words and phrases in the context of the entire legislative scheme, (3) considering both the plain meaning of the critical words and phrases along with their placement and purpose within the statutory scheme, and (4) interpreting the statutory provisions in harmony with the entire statutory scheme. See Bush v. Shabahang, 484 Mich. 156, 167, 772 N.W.2d 272 (2009).
MCL 333.26423(d) essentially provides that caregivers may operate medical marijuana activities so long as they comply with the enclosed, locked facility requirements. MCL 333.26424(b)(1) and (2) and MCL 333.26423(d), when read together, grant registered caregivers the rights and privileges to grow medical marijuana without fear of penalties imposed by local governments. In Ter Beek II, 495 Mich. at 20, 846 N.W.2d 531, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that an ordinance “directly conflicts with the MMMA by permitting what the MMMA expressly prohibits—the imposition of a ‘penalty in any manner’ on a registered qualifying patient whose medical use of marijuana falls within the scope of [MCL 333.26424(b) ]’s immunity.” Further, the Michigan Supreme Court clarified in Ter Beek II, 495 Mich. at 21, 846 N.W.2d 531, that its holding in Michigan v. McQueen, 493 Mich. 135, 828 N.W.2d 644 (2013) (McQueen II) should not be read to authorize a municipality to enjoin a registered qualifying patient from engaging in medical use of marijuana that complied with the MMMA simply by characterizing the conduct as a zoning violation.
The Michigan Supreme Court stated that MCL 333.26427(a) “in no uncertain terms” provides for medical use of marijuana if such use complies with the MMMA and that no other law may interfere with the unambiguous rights conferred by the MMMA. Ter Beek II, 495 Mich. at 22, 846 N.W.2d 531. Although the Michigan Supreme Court reaffirmed that the MMMA did not create a general right for individuals to grow and distribute medical marijuana, it nevertheless held that the MMMA preempted the city's ordinance because it penalized the plaintiff for engaging in MMMA-compliant medical marijuana use. Id. at 24-25, 846 N.W.2d 531.
Recently, in York Charter Twp. v. Miller, 322 Mich. App. 648, 663-664, 915 N.W.2d 373 (2018), this Court explained:
Notably, the MMMA does not grant municipalities authority to adopt ordinances that restrict registered caregivers’ rights and privileges under the MMMA. By comparison, the Legislature recently enacted the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act, MCL 333.27101 et seq., and specifically granted municipalities authority to adopt local ordinances including zoning regulations that restrict the location, number, and type of facilities within their boundaries. MCL 333.27205. Obviously, had the Legislature intended to authorize municipalities to adopt zoning ordinances restricting the activities of registered medical marijuana caregivers, it could have done so in the MMMA. Despite amending the MMMA twice, the Legislature refrained from incorporating such provision into the MMMA.
We believe that the plain language of the MMMA lacks any ambiguity that would necessitate judicial construction to decipher its meaning. When the statute is read as a whole, no irreconcilable conflict results that makes the statutory provisions susceptible to more than one meaning. We conclude that the MMMA permits medical use of marijuana, particularly the cultivation of marijuana by registered caregivers, at locations regardless of land-use zoning designations as long as the activity occurs within the statutorily specified enclosed, locked facility. No provision in the MMMA authorizes municipalities to restrict the location of MMMA-compliant medical use of marijuana by caregivers. Nor does the MMMA authorize municipalities to adopt ordinances restricting MMMA-compliant conduct to home occupations in residential locations. So long as caregivers conduct their medical marijuana activities in compliance with the MMMA—including that caregivers cultivate medical marijuana in an “enclosed, locked facility” as defined by MCL 333.26423(d) and do not violate the location prohibitions of MCL 333.26427(b)—such conduct cannot be restricted or penalized.
In this case, defendant's Zoning Ordinance §§ 3.2.G and H improperly restricted the medical use of marijuana by permitting MMMA-compliant activities only as a home occupation within a dwelling or garage in residentially zoned areas within the township. Medical marijuana home occupations were expressly prohibited in a commercial setting regardless of whether a patient's or caregiver's medical use of marijuana fully complied with the MMMA. Section 3.2.H.3 also required caregivers to obtain a permit by filing an application and paying a fee, and such permits were revocable for noncompliance with the ordinance regardless of whether a patient's or caregiver's medical use of marijuana fully complied with the MMMA. Sections 3.2.G and H plainly prohibited caregivers from conducting noncommercial medical marijuana activities at nonresidential locations. Defendant's Zoning Ordinance § 14.11 imposed serious consequences, including fines and penalties for noncompliance.
We conclude that defendant's home-occupation ordinance, §§ 3.2.G and H, plainly purported to prohibit the exercise of rights and privileges that the MMMA otherwise permits. Defendant's prohibition against noncommercial medical use of marijuana by a caregiver within a commercial building effectively denied plaintiff, as a registered caregiver, the rights and privileges that MCL 333.26424(b) permits in conjunction with MCL 333.26423(d). Accordingly, under Ter Beek I, 297 Mich. App. at 453, 823 N.W.2d 864, defendant's home-occupation ordinance directly conflicted with the MMMA in that regard.
Further, enforcement of defendant's home-occupation ordinance would result in the imposition of sanctions against plaintiff that the MMMA does not permit. See MCL 333.26424(b); see also Ter Beek I, 297 Mich. App. at 455-456, 823 N.W.2d 864. As the Michigan Supreme Court has explained, “[L]ocal zoning regulation enacted pursuant to the MZEA does not save it from preemption.” Ter Beek II, 495 Mich. at 21-22, 846 N.W.2d 531. Therefore, defendant's zoning ordinance's prohibition of registered caregivers’ MMMA-compliant medical use of marijuana in a commercial building was void and preempted by the MMMA. Ter Beek I, 297 Mich. App. at 457, 823 N.W.2d 864.
We believe that the trial court correctly read the MMMA as a whole, analyzed its plain language, and interpreted the MMMA in a reasonable and harmonious manner. The trial court correctly ruled that defendant's home-occupation ordinance prohibited what the MMMA permitted, MMMA-compliant conduct, merely because it occurred in a commercially zoned location. The trial court also correctly decided that defendant's zoning ordinance permitted what the MMMA prohibited by targeting and restricting MMMA-compliant use by adding a layer of restrictions and regulations that interfered with lawful use by imposing a permit requirement that defendant could revoke without regard to plaintiff's MMMA-compliant conduct. Further, the trial court correctly ruled that defendant's zoning ordinance also permitted what the MMMA prohibited by allowing defendant to impose penalties regardless of plaintiff's MMMA-compliant conduct. Accordingly, the trial court did not err by ruling that a direct conflict existed between defendant's ordinance and the MMMA resulting in the MMMA's preemption of plaintiff's home-occupation ordinance.
Defendant's argument that the MMMA does not preempt its ordinance because the MMMA does not occupy the field of zoning fails; the trial court never based its ruling on field preemption of zoning, nor did the trial court need to consider the field-preemption doctrine. Rather, the trial court correctly determined that doctrine inapplicable to this case because the ordinance directly conflicted with the MMMA and was preempted for that reason alone. Moreover, as this Court explained in Miller, 322 Mich. App. at 663-664, 915 N.W.2d 373, had the Legislature intended to authorize municipalities to adopt ordinances restricting the location where registered medical marijuana caregivers may exercise their rights through zoning ordinances, it could have done so in the MMMA but has refrained from doing so.
Therefore, we hold that the trial court properly analyzed the interplay between defendant's zoning ordinance and the MMMA and correctly held as a matter of law that the MMMA preempted defendant's home-occupation zoning ordinance because the ordinance directly conflicted with the MMMA by prohibiting what the MMMA permitted and because it improperly imposed regulations and penalties upon persons who engage in MMMA-compliant medical use of marijuana.
1. The MMMA was amended by 2016 PA 283, effective December 20, 2016; however, the version of the MMMA in effect at the time the events in this case occurred was the statute as amended by 2012 PA 512. All subsequent citations of the MMMA in this opinion refer to the MMMA as amended by 2012 PA 512.
Hoekstra, P.J., and Murphy and Markey, JJ., concurred.
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Docket No: No. 338972
Decided: July 17, 2018
Court: Court of Appeals of Michigan.
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