Medical Marijuana FAQ

1.  Why and when did the State of Michigan approve medical Marijuana? 

The Medical Marijuana Act (“MMA”) has been in effect in Michigan for nearly 8 years.  The MMA became law after being approved by Michigan voters as part of a ballot initiative in the Fall of 2008.  Legislators had no role in creating or enacting the law.  According to its own website, the Marijuana Policy Project “played a leading role in successful efforts to pass 11 of the 16 most recent state medical marijuana laws,” including Michigan’s.   The MPP was founded in 1995 and is the largest organization in the United States that is focused solely on ending marijuana prohibition.

2.  Can Cities ban the growing of medical marijuana or require that it only be grown in specific locations such as commercial buildings?

No.  The MMA is very clear that a “qualifying patient” and a “caregiver” may not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the MMA.  Therefore, a city cannot ban the use, possession, or growing of medical marijuana so long as the rules in the MMA are being followed, and any ban on growing marijuana in a home or other locations would be invalid due to the state law allowing medical marijuana growing to occur anywhere in Michigan except school properties and correctional facilities. 

3.  Can marijuana be grown in homes and if so can the City ban such?

A patient or a caregiver under the MMA may grow marijuana anywhere, although the MMA prohibits possession of medical marijuana on school property and in a correctional facility.  A city cannot ban a person from growing medical marijuana in a residential home, because doing so would mean imposing a penalty or withholding a right that is granted to every patient and caregiver by the MMA.

4.  How many plants can be grown in a home?

Each patient may grow up to 12 plants, regardless of location.  The only requirement is that the plants be kept in an enclosed, locked facility. Each caregiver may grow up to 12 plants for each patient connected to the caregiver in the state’s registry.  The same requirement of an enclosed, locked facility applies. 

5.  Is there a registration process to ensure caregivers are not growing more than the maximum allowed, which is 12 plants for each patient or 72 plants? 

Not in the MMA.  In Sterling Heights, however, the ordinance requires any residential growing operations to be registered and inspected for compliance with all applicable laws and codes.

6.  How does the City know if the marijuana is being grown, distributed, or smoked illegally?

The only way to discover illegal growing, distribution, or smoking is to witness it, which requires lawful observation of the location where the illegal activity is occurring.  In addition to responding to tips and concerns, the City’s police and code enforcement officers regularly take proactive enforcement measures to identify and end illegal marijuana-related activity.

7.  What if there are noxious odors emitting from a home that is growing marijuana inside?  In these cases who should a resident call?

Although the MMA does not protect others from external effects of medical marijuana growing and use, the City’s ordinance prohibits a variety of secondary effects, including the emission of odors beyond a property line.  The police should be contacted.  The police may enforce the City’s regulatory ordinance and code enforcement may enforce any applicable codes and zoning requirements.

8.  Does the home have to be occupied in order to grow marijuana? 

Not under the MMA.  However, under the City’s ordinance, the home must be occupied by an owner, even if the owner is not the person growing the marijuana, and the patient or caregiver growing the marijuana must legally reside there as well. 

9.  Is it illegal if homes have multiple air conditioners and hydroponics to help stimulate plant growth? 

Multiple air conditioners and hydroponics are not illegal in a home, but their installation and/or use could lead to related code violations, including electrical and mechanical concerns.

10.  Is the City taking enforcement action against individuals or properties in violation of state law or local ordinance?

Yes.  All tips and complaints are investigated using a variety of law enforcement and code enforcement methods, and properties are also monitored for unusual activity during routine police and code enforcement patrols through the City.  In addition, all violations are enforced through the issuance of criminal and civil citations to property owners and all other responsible individuals.  The City also has the option of pursuing a circuit court order to abate any ongoing nuisances and other violations.

11.  Are there legislative changes cities are seeking including Sterling Heights to address ongoing enforcement problems?

The current legislative focus appears to be on creating a sophisticated multi-tiered licensing system for growing, processing, providing, and transporting medical marijuana.  If this system is implemented, it would allow licensed “provisioning centers” to provide medical marijuana to any registered patient, and local communities could enact ordinances to limit the number of such facilities.  Such a system might indirectly encourage growers and sellers to consolidate their marijuana businesses into non-residential areas.  However, the new system still may not have much impact on small-scale growers who prefer to avoid the commercial overhead associated with their medical marijuana activities.

Many communities, including Sterling Heights, are in favor of additional legislative changes to address ongoing enforcement issues, including:  (1) a complete ban of medical marijuana growing in residential areas and/or an option for local control over such activity; (2) more access to the statewide registry database; and (3) licensing requirements that would allow random law enforcement inspections. 

However, although the Legislature is able to add new permitted activities to the MMA, it is extremely difficult to rescind or undo any of the rights granted by the voters in 2008.  As a voter-approved initiative, any amendments require a ¾ vote of the Legislature.  Nevertheless, the Legislature could still enact some of the provisions adopted in Sterling Heights, and perhaps new provisions as well, to combat “secondary effects” and potentially discourage marijuana growing in residential areas.  For example, locations suspected of marijuana growing could be publicly identified online as part of a registry or map so that any illegal operations cannot enjoy the “secrecy” that comes from being hidden in a residential neighborhood.

Another option would be for an advocacy group to organize a new ballot initiative to address the issues that continue to arise under the MMA, including the unforeseen effects that have arisen due to the way the MMA was drafted.

12. How can residents help the City enforce regulations?

  • If you notice any noxious odors or unusual traffic coming and going beyond what would be considered normal for a residential home you should contact the Police Departments Detective Bureau at 586-446-2820.
  • If you notice property maintenance concerns (long grass, weeds, peeling paint, broken windows, over grown shrubbery, etc. ) you should contact Code Enforcement at 586-446-2360.
  • Contact the following State officials and ask them to revise the State Statute to provide cities more regulatory control over growing and the use of medical marijuana so that the high quality of life enjoyed by residents is not disrupted by this activity.  

1.     State Representatives Henry Yanez,  

HenryYanez@house.mi.gov

517-373-2275

2.     Jeff Farrington,  

JeffFarrington@house.mi.gov

517-373-7768

3.     Senator Tory Rocca,

sentrocca@senate.mi.gov

517-373-7315