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      Post 444 fired up about smoking ban

      Two months ago the smoking ban went into effect across the state of Michigan.

      While the transition to clean air went smoothly at many local restaurants and bars, the American Legion Post 444 in Baraga has been the exception.

      Members of the post are not only breaking the smoke-free law they're actually challenging its constitutionality.

      The group has given a number of reasons for not co-operating but they say first and foremost the state shouldn't be able to regulate private property.

      So patrons have continued to smoke while chatting with friends and having a drink at the bar.

      Post Commander Rick Geroux got together with Legion members before the ban went into effect and as a group they decided they weren't going to comply.

      "The law is unconstitutional on its face, says member Joseph O TMLeary. It's just extra insulting to veterans who've given so much to this country to have the country take away rights."

      May first came and went without any change at the American Legion.

      But an anonymous complaint to the Western U.P. Health Department on May 17th brought Environmental Health Director Lynne Madison into the situation.

      The Health Department found the bar to be in violation and issued an order on May 19th asking Geroux to post no smoking signs at the door, remove all ash trays, and begin enforcing the ban.

      Instead the Legion sent back its own order outlining its general opposition to the law and also claiming exemption because the Post is located on the L TMAnse Federal Indian Reservation and is forced to compete with two tribally run bars just blocks away.

      "It wasn't expected because we've regulated them in the past, says Madison. At this point we've asked the state to look at the situation and provide guidance."

      While both sides now wait to see what happens next, Post 444 will continue to allow smoking inside.

      "That order says the law is unconstitutional and un-American, O TMLeary says. It doesn't say that the Post won't follow the law. They will, but they're going to need a court to tell them it is constitutional.

      Of course the Post is hoping someone in the state will make things right before it goes that far, but the members say they aren't going to back down from a fight they believe in.