City could face suit over pot proposal

Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 8, 2004

Ann Arbor resident and medicinal marijuana user Mark Rowland
wants the Ann Arbor Police Department to follow the will of the
city’s voters.

AAPD Chief Dan Oates issued a statement Thursday saying his
officers will continue to prosecute marijuana users and dealers
even after the passage of Proposal C, which legalized medicinal
marijuana in the city. Local voters overwhelmingly approved the
ballot proposal in last Tuesday’s election.

“It’s a blatant disregard for law that has been
voted in by the citizens of Ann Arbor,” said Rowland, who
added that he had an aneurism in 1993 and now uses medical

He said he has filed a personnel complaint against Oates and
City Attorney Stephen Postema in response to the statement. Postema
said he had not heard about the complaint, while the AAPD
Professional Standards department could not comment on whether a
complaint had been filed.

Rowland is a part of Fresh Start, a nonprofit group dedicated to
establishing a cooperative garden in Ann Arbor for medicinal
marijuana users to grow their own pot.

Rowland said Oates should pay attention to Proposal C because of
its wide support by the people of Ann Arbor. The proposal passed by
a margin of 74 percent to 25 percent last week.

“Once the voters make a decision, it’s not up to the
chief to tell the Ann Arbor police not to enforce the law,”
he said.

In addition to his complaint, Rowland said he plans to file a
class-action lawsuit against the city and has consulted a lawyer.
The plaintiffs in this suit will include medicinal marijuana users
and those who voted for Proposal C, Rowland said.

Chuck Ream, who led the fight for the passage of Proposal C as
chair of the Washtenaw Coalition for Compassionate Care, says the
city is interpreting a 23-year-old Ypsilanti case too strictly in
order to justify continuing prosecutions against marijuana

The case in question is Joslin v. 14th District Court, which
states that any city law that prevents police from carrying out
state law is void. Currently, state law prohibits the use, sale or
distribution of marijuana for any purpose.

This clear precedent precludes any legal opposition to
Oates’ position, City Attorney Stephen Postema said.

“I don’t foresee any challenges because this is the
state of the law,” Postema said.

But Ream disagrees. “(The city’s) premise is unsound
when they say there is no ‘wiggle room’ under the
Joslin case,” Ream said. For support, Ream points to language
in the Ypsilanti case saying police can use “choice and
discretion” when deciding whether to prosecute.

In this case, the police should chose to support the proposal,
Ream said. He admitted that the Ypsilanti case means that the city
does not have to follow the proposal, but he sees its overwhelming
passage as a “mandate” from the citizens of Ann

“I have confidence in our mayor and our city that they
will not ignore the vote of the people,” he said.

In the meantime, Ream has some suggestions on how the proposal
could be effectively implemented, even in the face of the legal
challenges brought by previous case law.

“It’s clear we cannot prevent any police officer
from enforcing state law, but we could provide identification cards
to people who are patients and recommend all employees of the city
that they respect ID cards,” he said.