Pubdate: Wed, 22 Jul 2015
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Column: Higher Ground
Copyright: 2015 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Author: Larry Gabriel


Last week the Detroit Medz shop on Detroit's west side was raided for 
"selling marijuana outside the provisions of the state medical 
marijuana act," says Sgt. Cassandra Lewis of the Detroit police media 
relations department. News reports said police found two guns, 4,100 
grams (about 9 pounds) of marijuana, and arrested one person - 
although Lewis says two individuals were arrested that evening.

Lewis says that there were complaints from the community and that 
police previously had made undercover buys there, although it's not 
clear if those undercover buys were made by people with state cards 
(or fake ones as has been done in the past) or by folks who just 
walked in with nothing to show.

So far no charges have been announced.

What has also been publicized through the news is that the shop was 
about 500 feet from a school and that someone from the shop handed 
out fliers or some type of advertisement outside the school while 
there was a graduation ceremony going on. City Council member James 
Tate, who has been the frontman for the city around drafting an 
ordinance setting rules for how such shops operate, was all over the 
situation. He did a news conference outside the closed-down shop, 
saying, "This, to me, is the most egregious case I've seen."

I called Tate's office to see just how egregious any other case that 
he's seen was. However, no one answered when I called, and his 
voicemail was full so I couldn't leave a message.

I don't know anything about Detroit Medz. If folks there have been 
selling marijuana to people who are not registered patients, then 
they have broken the law and the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act 
doesn't protect them. However, everything else I'm hearing about this 
is a little gummy.

Tate has had Winfred Blackmon and his Metropolitan Detroit Community 
Action Coalition (MDCAC) riding his ass for several months regarding 
dispensaries in the city. I went to a couple of meetings early on and 
have been receiving Blackmon's email alerts since then. Early on, it 
was obvious that MDCAC members didn't want to see marijuana, medical 
or otherwise, in their neighborhoods. They have an old-school 
attitude. Early on, their complaints included the fact that most 
dispensary locations painted their storefronts green - as if that matters.

MDCAC has been pushing Tate, who represents District 1, to do 
something about what they call "illegal marijuana provision centers." 
They've been riding city attorney Butch Hollowell too.

Truthfully, the city has been slow to address the issue. I've noticed 
a distinct tendency to avoid talking about marijuana by city 
officials while places such as Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Lincoln Park, 
and elsewhere have set up rules regarding dispensaries. Now those 
cities have not been going through their mayor being indicted and 
convicted, switching from an at-large to a district city council 
system, having an emergency manager, and a bankruptcy. However, it 
would be good from a number of viewpoints to set the rules about dispensaries.

That said, the MDCAC model is not a liberal one. Although over time, 
as they have come to accept that medical marijuana is not going away, 
they have lightened up some. Originally, they wanted only one 
dispensary per council district, which would mean only seven in the 
entire city. Their current proposal seeks to limit the number of 
dispensaries and limit their locations to industrial zones, mandates 
that they cannot be near a church, school, daycare or nursery, and 
proposes a number of inspections and permits before they can open.

The City Council and Law Department seem to have been giving MDCAC 
the okeydoke as they move through drafting something a bit more 
liberal. Blackmon got wind of this recently, and he has been riling 
up the troops and circulating a letter for groups and individuals to 
send to their council representative in support of the MDCAC 
proposal. And they're also circulating a contact number for state 
Attorney General Bill Schuette's office. If nothing else, Schuette 
has proved he is no friend to medical marijuana.

I take all that into account when I consider the Detroit Medz bust. 
First, the location is in District 2 - hence, the complaints from the 
community. MDCAC meets and is most active in that area.

Second, Tate was all over the news covering the Detroit Medz raid. 
During his press conference (how often do you see a city council 
member giving a press conference at something like this?) Tate said, 
"Right now, we are at a point where we cannot let this continue." It 
seems that he's trying to score points that he's doing something 
about the perceived threat of marijuana dispensaries just as MDCAC is 
alarmed that he is not in their corner.

This may be a case of the squeaky wheel getting the oil.

As for the argument that the dispensary was too near a school and 
passing out advertising nearby - which was explicitly noted in news 
reports - Tate pointed out that being near a school is against 
federal regulations. Hmm ... if we're talking federal regulations, 
then we're not talking about regulating dispensaries at all. 
Federally, none of this is legal.

"They chose this very uncivilized manner to try to make an example of 
this one particular facility," says Southfield-based attorney Michael 
Komorn, who heads the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association. "There 
is no rule prohibiting [a location near a school], no rule. ... Maybe 
that's something they should think about doing - regulate this in a 
way that satisfies the community."

Maybe the Detroit Medz folks were selling to people who aren't 
registered patients, but the rest of this seems to be pure political theater.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom