Judith Pontius from Ypsilanti Township defies marijuana rules
A 79-year-old woman from Ypsilanti township could face jail time after defying a local ordinance that banned her from growing marijuana in her home.
Judith Pontius began cultivating marijuana as a registered caregiver in 2012 for patients, including her daughter and granddaughter, as permitted by the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008, said Barton Morris Jr., senior counsel. of the Cannabis Legal Group in Royal Oak, which currently represents Ponce.
âJudy refuses to comply. She’s very stubborn and she’s not just stubborn, she has principles,â Morris said.
After the township passed an ordinance in 2012 prohibiting caregivers from growing in residential areas, the township first came into conflict with Pontius when a neighbor contacted the township about the smell, said Morris.
While she sorted out the issues with her neighbor and the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office verified that she was under the factory limit, the issues with the township remained, Pontius said.
When Ponce refused to remove her plants, the township sued her. As the courts deliberated on the conflict between state and local zoning laws, the case was taken to the Michigan Supreme Court, before an appeals court ultimately ruled in favor of the township.
“By passing an ordinance that says Judy has to bring her plants to an industrial area, in effect, they are just saying that she has to stop growing because she cannot afford to bring her plants to an industrial area.” said Morris, who added that he has contacted township officials in the hopes of reaching a resolution. If negotiations fail, Ponce could be charged with contempt of court, which is punishable by fines of up to $ 7,500 or up to 93 days in jail.
The Free Press contacted the Ypsilanti township offices on Saturday for comment, but could not reach officials outside of office hours.
The township launched the case to reduce a public nuisance, saying its zoning code allowed caregivers who were also patients to grow medical marijuana in their homes for their personal use, but not as a home occupation for them. their patients.
The case went to the Washtenaw County Circuit Court, where Judge Carol Kuhnke ruled in Pontius’ favor in September 2017, saying the order was preempted by the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.
This decision was appealed and upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeal.
The township appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court. On April 30, 2019, the court temporarily stayed the case as it was considering DeRuiter v. Township of Byron, a similar case involving a conflict between zoning ordinances and the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.
The Michigan Supreme Court later ruled that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act does not prevent a township from regulating land use, as long as the municipality does not prohibit or penalize the cultivation of medical marijuana and the municipality does not impose unreasonable regulations. But last fall, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration in light of the ruling.
The court’s original decision was overturned. The township has asked Kuhnke to declare Pontius’ house a public nuisance and order her to get rid of all but 12 of her plants, which she is allowed for recreation, Morris said.
On June 11, the judge issued an order giving Ponce 10 days to comply. he said she should contact the local sheriff’s office to inspect her home.
In light of the DeRuiter decision, Morris said caregivers face increased restrictions from municipalities, including moratoria on growth and limits on the number of patients.
“They took what was decided by the Supreme Court and now they are trying to push it to levels that had not been considered,” he said.
Registered caregivers can accommodate up to six patients, Morris said. Caregivers are allowed 12 plants per patient for a maximum of 72 plants, he said.
Pontius grew up for five patients, including herself. She has 57 plants, three under her limit.
Pontius has said she wants to finish growing for this season before shutting down and seeking caregivers for her patients.
âI don’t think what they’re doing is right. I think they’re hurting a lot of people. People who depend on this drug have caregivers, because it’s cheaper.â¦ People don’t. don’t have a lot of money, so it’s useful for them, âPontius said.
Ponce also said she would like to see these ordinances changed.
âI don’t like people telling me what I can and can’t do if it’s legal,â Pontius said.