846 N.W.2d 531 (Mich. 2014), 145816, Beek v. City of Wyoming

Docket Nº:145816
Citation:846 N.W.2d 531, 495 Mich. 1
Opinion Judge:McCormack, J.
Party Name:JOHN TER BEEK, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. CITY OF WYOMING, Defendant-Appellant
Attorney:For JOHN TER BEEK, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT: MICHAEL O NELSON, GRAND RAPIDS, MI; DANIEL S KOROBKIN, DETROIT, MI. For CITY OF WYOMING, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE: JACK R SLUITER, WYOMING, MI. For CITY OF LIVONIA, AMICUS CURIAE: MICHAEL E FISHER, LIVONIA, MI.
Judge Panel:Chief Justice: Robert P. Young, Jr. Justices: Michael F. Cavanagh, Stephen J. Markman, Mary Beth Kelly, Brian K. Zahra, Bridget M. McCormack, David F. Viviano.
Case Date:February 06, 2014
Court:Supreme Court of Michigan
 
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Page 531

846 N.W.2d 531 (Mich. 2014)

495 Mich. 1

JOHN TER BEEK, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

CITY OF WYOMING, Defendant-Appellant

No. 145816

Supreme Court of Michigan

February 6, 2014

Argued October 10, 2013.

Page 532

For JOHN TER BEEK, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT: MICHAEL O NELSON, GRAND RAPIDS, MI; DANIEL S KOROBKIN, DETROIT, MI.

For CITY OF WYOMING, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE: JACK R SLUITER, WYOMING, MI.

For CITY OF LIVONIA, AMICUS CURIAE: MICHAEL E FISHER, LIVONIA, MI.

Chief Justice: Robert P. Young, Jr. Justices: Michael F. Cavanagh, Stephen J. Markman, Mary Beth Kelly, Brian K. Zahra, Bridget M. McCormack, David F. Viviano.

OPINION

Page 533

[495 Mich. 5] BEFORE THE ENTIRE BENCH

McCormack, J.

The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA), MCL 333.26421 et seq., enacted pursuant to a voter initiative in November 2008, affords certain protections under state law for the medical use of marijuana in the state of Michigan. Among them is

Page 534

§ 4(a) of the MMMA, which immunizes registered qualifying patients from " penalty in any manner" for specified MMMA-compliant medical marijuana use. MCL 333.26424(a). At issue here is the relationship between this immunity, the federal prohibition of marijuana under the controlled substances act (CSA), 21 USC 801 et seq., and a local zoning ordinance adopted by the city of Wyoming which prohibits and subjects to civil sanction any land " [u]ses that are contrary to federal law." City of Wyoming Code of Ordinances, § 90-66. As set forth below, we agree with the Court of Appeals that the ordinance directly conflicts with, and is preempted by, § 4(a) of the MMMA, and that § 4(a) is not preempted by the federal CSA. Accordingly, we affirm the Court of Appeals' judgment.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In 2010, approximately two years after the MMMA went into effect, defendant, the city of Wyoming (the [495 Mich. 6] City), adopted an ordinance (the Ordinance) amending the zoning chapter of the Wyoming city code to add the following provision:

Uses not expressly permitted under this article are prohibited in all districts. Uses that are contrary to federal law, state law or local ordinance are prohibited.

City of Wyoming Code of Ordinances, § 90-66. Under the city code, violations of the Ordinance constitute municipal civil infractions punishable by " civil sanctions, including, without limitation, fines, damages, expenses and costs," City of Wyoming Code of Ordinances, § 1-27(a) to (b), and are also subject to injunctive relief, City of Wyoming Code of Ordinances, § 1-27(g).

Plaintiff, John Ter Beek, lives in the City and is a qualifying patient under the MMMA who possesses a state-issued registry identification card.1 Upon the City's adoption of the Ordinance, Ter Beek filed the instant lawsuit in circuit court. Ter Beek alleges that he wishes to grow, possess, and use medical marijuana in his home in accordance with the MMMA. The Ordinance, however, by its incorporation of the CSA's federal prohibition of marijuana, prohibits and penalizes such conduct. This, Ter Beek contends, impermissibly contravenes § 4(a) of the MMMA, which provides that registered qualifying patients " shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner . . . for the medical use of marihuana in accordance with" the MMMA. Accordingly, Ter Beek seeks a declaratory judgment that the Ordinance is preempted by the MMMA and a corresponding injunction prohibiting the City [495 Mich. 7] from enforcing the Ordinance against him for the medical use of marijuana in compliance with the MMMA.2

The parties filed cross-motions for summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10), disputing whether the Ordinance is preempted by the MMMA and whether the MMMA is preempted by the CSA. The circuit court granted summary disposition in favor of the City, concluding that the MMMA is preempted by the CSA. Ter Beek appealed by right in the Court of Appeals, which reversed the circuit court's

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grant of summary disposition in favor of the City and remanded the case for entry of summary disposition in favor of Ter Beek. Ter Beek v Wyoming, 297 Mich.App. 446; 823 N.W.2d 864 (2012). The Court of Appeals first concluded that the Ordinance directly conflicts with, and is thus preempted by, § 4(a) of the MMMA, because it purports to penalize the medical use of marijuana in contravention of § 4(a)'s grant of immunity from such penalties. The Court of Appeals then concluded that § 4(a) is not preempted by the federal CSA, reasoning that it is possible to comply with both statutes simultaneously and that § 4(a)'s state-law immunity for certain medical marijuana patients does not stand as an obstacle to the CSA's federal regulation of marijuana use or to the federal enforcement of same. The City sought leave to appeal, which we granted, to address the questions of state and federal preemption. Ter Beek v Wyoming, 493 Mich. 957; 828 N.W.2d 381 (2013).3

[495 Mich. 8] II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Whether § 4(a) of the MMMA preempts the Ordinance, and whether the CSA preempts § 4(a), are questions of law which we review de novo. Detroit v Ambassador Bridge Co, 481 Mich. 29, 35; 748 N.W.2d 221 (2008); Mich Coalition For Responsible Gun Owners v City of Ferndale, 256 Mich.App. 401, 405; 662 N.W.2d 864 (2003). We also review de novo the decision to grant or deny summary disposition, Spiek v Dep't of Transp, 456 Mich. 331, 337; 572 N.W.2d 201 (1998), and review for clear error factual findings in support of that decision, Ambassador Bridge, 481 Mich. at 35.

As we have recently explained, the intent of the electors governs the interpretation of voter-initiated statutes such as the MMMA, just as the intent of the Legislature governs the interpretation of legislatively enacted statutes. People v Bylsma, 493 Mich. 17, 26; 825 N.W.2d 543 (2012). The first step when interpreting a statute is to examine its plain language, which provides the most reliable evidence of intent. If the statutory language is unambiguous, no further judicial construction is required or permitted because we must conclude that the electors intended the meaning clearly expressed. Id.

III. ANALYSIS

A. KEY PROVISIONS OF THE MMMA, THE CSA, AND THE ORDINANCE

The questions of state and federal preemption in this case arise from the differing treatment of medical [495 Mich. 9] marijuana use under the MMMA and the CSA. As noted, § 4(a) of the MMMA provides, in relevant part:

A qualifying patient who has been issued and possesses a registry identification card shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including but not limited to civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for the medical use of marihuana in accordance with this act . . . . [MCL 333.26424(a).]

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The MMMA defines " medical use" as " the 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." MCL 333.26423(f).

The CSA, meanwhile, contains no such immunity. Rather, it makes it " unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally . . . to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance." 21 USC 841(a)(1). The CSA classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, 21 USC 812(c)(12), and thus largely prohibits its manufacture, distribution, or possession.4

The parties do not dispute that the Ordinance, by prohibiting all " [u]ses that are contrary to federal law," incorporates the CSA's prohibition of marijuana and makes certain violations of that prohibition both punishable [495 Mich. 10] by civil sanctions and subject to injunctive relief. Thus, an individual whose medical use of marijuana falls within the scope of § 4(a)'s immunity from " penalty in any manner" may nonetheless be subject to punishment under the Ordinance for that use.

B. THE CSA DOES NOT PREEMPT § 4(a) OF THE MMMA

As noted, the circuit court rejected Ter Beek's challenge to the Ordinance because it held that § 4(a) of the MMMA is preempted by the CSA. The Court of Appeals disagreed. Although raised under the particular circumstances of this case as a defense, we address this question first, and hold that the CSA does not preempt § 4(a).

Federal preemption of state law is grounded in the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, U.S. Const, art VI, cl 2, which " invalidates state laws that 'interfere with, or are contrary to,' federal law." Hillsborough Co v Automated Med Labs, Inc, 471 U.S. 707, 712; 105 S.Ct. 2371; 85 L.Ed.2d 714 (1985), quoting Gibbons v Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat) 1, 211; 6 L.Ed. 23 (1824). When a state law is preempted by federal law, the state law is " without effect." Maryland v Louisiana, 451 U.S. 725, 746; 101 S.Ct. 2114; 68 L.Ed.2d 576 (1981).

" '[T]he purpose of Congress is the ultimate touchstone in every pre-emption case.'" Wyeth v Levine, 555 U.S. 555, 565; 129 S.Ct. 1187; 173 L.Ed.2d 51 (2009), quoting Medtronic, Inc v Lohr, 518 U.S. 470, 485; 116 S.Ct. 2240; 135 L.Ed.2d 700 (1996). Furthermore, " [i]n all pre-emption cases, and particularly in those in which Congress has legislated . . . in a field which the States have traditionally occupied, we start with the assumption that the historic police powers of the States were not to be superseded by the Federal Act unless that was the clear and...

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