LANSING, Mich. — At the request of Sen. Rick Jones, the Attorney General’s Office recently issued an opinion that will protect small business owners against city ordinances that conflict with state law.
In August, the city of Ann Arbor passed a local ordinance banning the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to people under age 21. Under the ordinance, which went into effect on Jan. 1, retailers could be fined up to $500 for selling tobacco products to anyone under 21. Ann Arbor was the first city in Michigan to raise the legal purchasing age above 18.
“Ann Arbor’s ordinance would have done nothing to stop people from smoking; adults who chose to smoke would have simply gone outside the city to buy tobacco products,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “I requested the attorney general’s opinion out of concern that this ordinance — and possibly similar ones in other cities — would harm owners of small mom-and-pop stores and gas stations throughout the state.”
In Opinion 7294, the attorney general ruled that Ann Arbor’s tobacco ordinance is unlawful because it conflicts with Michigan’s Age of Majority Act of 1972, which set the “age of majority” at 18 and prohibited younger adults from being treated differently than people older than 21.
“The power to limit adults from buying and consuming legal products is given to the state, and rules like this ordinance could create a patchwork set of laws that would unfairly burden locally owned convenience stores that are struggling to survive,” Jones said. “I also think it was tremendously hypocritical that this ban was put in place by Ann Arbor, a city that openly encourages smoking of recreational marijuana.”
Jones has previously sponsored legislation to prohibit a local unit of government from banning a legal product to supersede state law.