Pubdate: Wed, 07 Sep 2011
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Copyright: 2011 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Author: Larry Gabriel


Attorney General Bill Schuette Leads His Stormtroopers Against Medical

If this were Star Wars, what has happened with medical marijuana in
Michigan recently would be analogous to The Empire Strikes Back -
wherein Darth Vader, played by state Attorney General Bill Schuette,
with the state Court of Appeals collectively playing the evil emperor
in the background, has led his stormtroopers in an offensive that has
his opponents on the run.

On Aug. 23, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled against Compassionate 
Apothecary, LLC, of Mount Pleasant, saying that patient-to-patient 
sales of medical marijuana were not legal. Judge Joel P. Hoekstra 
wrote this about the voter-approved Michigan Medical Marihuana Act: 
"[T]he 'medical use' of marihuana, as defined by the MMMA, does not 
include patient-to-patient 'sales' of marihuana, and no other 
provision of the MMMA can be read to permit such sales."

Apparently the only legal way for certified medical marijuana patients
to get some medicine is to find some on the porch.

The next day, two dispensaries in Ann Arbor, Med Mar and Liberty
Clinic, were raided, while dispensaries across the state - estimates
are as many as 500 of them - closed their doors or removed all
medication from the premises and only advised clients on what to do.

As prosecutors in county after county, prodded by Schuette, sent 
cease-and-desist letters to dispensaries operating in their 
jurisdictions, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton made it known 
that he was in no hurry to shut down dispensaries in his county, 
telling the Flint Journal: "I don't have investigators who can go out 
and inspect what are called the dispensaries and see if they are in 
violation. The only way I would be able to review any case ... is if 
any communities investigate it and bring me evidence that a dispensary 
is in violation."

This is the latest battle in an ongoing war. Oakland County sheriffs
notoriously began busting dispensaries last August. In January, police
raided the facilities known as Big Daddy's in Oak Park, taking about
$2,800 in cash, some marijuana products (it's not clear how much),
documents and equipment. Although no charges were filed at the time,
last week, in the wake of the court decision, four people associated
with Big Daddy's - Rick Ferris, Stefani Ferris, Danny Stafford and
Andrey Douthard - were arrested on a total of 24 charges stemming from
the January raid.

"All charges have to do with conspiracy to deliver marijuana, delivery
of marijuana, and possession with intent to deliver marijuana," says
attorney Paul Tylenda, who represents them. "It appears the police
used actual patients for controlled buys, rather than use fake IDs for
undercover cops," as police did in busting other Oakland County facilities.

"It's an informant problem," Tylenda says. "In my belief it makes it a
little more challengeable. It's a snitch situation frankly. The
credibility of the snitch is involved."

Tylenda says the complaints were dated before the Court of Appeals
decision about Compassionate Apothecary came down, but some medical
marijuana activists see it as part of a coordinated effort between the
courts, Schuette and county prosecutors to attack medical marijuana
activists. Particularly Big Daddy's because the facility serves as the
main office of the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers, a group
that has organized protests at courthouses where medical marijuana
cases were being heard, given legal support to defendants in some
cases, and hired lobbyists to support medical marijuana in Lansing.

"There's no question in my mind," says Rich Thompson, a Big Daddy's
spokesman who is an organizer of a Sept. 7 rally at the state Capitol.
"It's no coincidence that these charges came less than a week after
the Court of Appeals ruling. ... If there were any significant health
or safety concerns, Oakland County could've closed the facility in
January. It seems the two are connected. Big Daddy's is arguably one
of the most active organizations in the state supporting medical
marijuana and community involvement in the issue. If they take us
down, they think they can take the wind out of the sails of the movement. "

Another reason Thompson sees coordination coming from political and
law enforcement higher-ups is the demeanor of the police at the raid.
"We've never had problems with the city of Oak Park," he says. "During
the raid the police were apologetic. They said that the orders came
from above. This is the second incidence where Lansing tells Oakland
County to jump and [Sheriff Michael] Bouchard and [prosecutor Jessica]
Cooper say, 'How high?'"

Tylenda adds, "These officers are mere foot soldiers. They're given
orders; they follow orders. It all comes from higher-ups. These
charges are more political than practical; more vindictive than
something that finds a solution."

It does seem that Schuette has turned the issue into a personal quest.
Before the MMMA passed, Schuette, then a judge, was a leader in the
fight against the law. An Oct. 7, 2008, article in the Michigan Daily
quoted him saying, "There's nothing in this statute that would
restrict, nothing that would prohibit and nothing that would prevent
these pot shops and pot clubs and smoking co-ops that have erupted in
California from coming to Michigan."

Apparently there's nothing in there that allows them

As things hit the boiling point elsewhere, there is, curiously, an
island of calm in Ypsilanti, where it seems that business as usual is
taking place at the Third Coast Compassion Center, the first
dispensary to be licensed in Michigan.

"Our city attorney was quoted in some media saying he wanted to see
what the Supreme Court does before taking any action," says Jamie
Lowell, co-founder of the nonprofit Third Coast. "I don't really think
that our model is affected by this ruling. The ruling should be looked
at a lot more narrowly than it is. It really doesn't affect all
dispensaries. It's great fuel for people who are in opposition. If
there is a prosecutor, or someone in opposition to these places, it
gives them fuel to hurt those places. We're still really trying to
figure out what it means, trying to digest the implications."

So is everybody else in the state. The folks at Michigan Association
of Compassion Centers (MACC), and other support organizations, are
considering where to go from here. Some suggest an appeal to the state
Supreme Court, although a unanimous 3-0 Court of Appeals ruling makes
it less likely that the Supreme Court would accept the case. Some call
for activists to lobby their state representatives. And some say
ballot initiatives to clarify the law or to flat out decriminalize
marijuana are in order. Regardless of where things go, the fight is

"We're experiencing backlash; this is drug policy reform backlash,"
says Charmie Gholson, of Mothers Against Prohibition. "I don't think
our attorney general and these legislators have public support. I
think they're just haters. The people are far ahead of the politicians
on this issue. We passed a law that says you can't arrest us."

But the law, apparently, is up to interpretation. And with the
stormtroopers all on Darth Schuette's Death Star, it may take a legal
Jedi master to hold off the onslaught. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.