Michigan Marijuana Community Fights For Their Rights
The days when police and government agencies could take advantage of medical marijuana patients or advocates for adult use of cannabis without fear of retribution are almost over. The Great Lakes State is full of stories featuring an organized community or empowered individuals who understand the law and insist on it’s fair application.
From Lake to Lake to Lake, Michigan sees advances in marijuana liberation almost every day. Not all of these stories will have a happy ending but each time we stand up, prohibition takes a seat. Point by point, we will win.
POINT: You can’t stop the unstoppable
When marijuana law reform comes to your town, embrace it or be trod under. The city of Oak Park tried to confound legalization advocates earlier this year when they tried to slow down the rate of change. Petitioners had submitted enough petition signatures to qualify to put the effort before the voters, and they did it early enough to make it on the August primary ballot.
Oak Park didn’t like that and tried to bump the vote to the November general election. A lawsuit ensued and the city lost; marijuana law reform advocates were victorious. The issue was offered in August and it passed with a 53% YES vote. Neighboring city Hazel park did the same thing, without all the drama, and their vote was over 60%.
If everyone learned their lesson and stopped trying to interfere with an activist community that knows how to bring out the big guns, the story would end there. Not so, unfortunately. Officials in Saginaw announced they were trying to halt the process in their city by waiting on an approval letter from the Attorney General, a letter that they knew would never come. Armed with the ruling in Oak Park, and the Michigan Supreme Court ruling from a 2010 marijuana legalization case in Detroit, petitioners stood ready to mount another legal defense.
Saginaw relented, the threat subsided and the issue will appear on their ballot in November. Other misunderstandings have presented themselves: the swanky city of Grosse Pointe Park used a typographical error to disqualify this year’s petition drive for legalization, and Oak Park officials still believe their election results cannot be certified by the Governor because of the marijuana question appearing on their ballot. The Oak Park issue is especially confusing since there are eight cities that have already performed similar votes and approvals in Michigan.
POINT: Toss the whole lot of ’em out
In Lapeer County they’ve had an up-and-down battle with medical marijuana. One of the first dispensaries in the state opened in 2010 in a small town called Dryden; the Village Council created an ordinance allowing the business to set up and welcomed them to the community. That facility was eventually raided later in 2010, and was eventually shuttered, by the actions of an outside entity, the Lapeer County Sheriff Department, under shady pretense and using small-town methods of law enforcement.
Questions arose regarding the search warrant used, the methods involved during the raid and the investigation afterwards. During a subsequent raid on the same facility one of the investigators, while scanning the private and personal medical date from dozens of patients, famously said to a camera that “patient records make good intel.” Lawyers for the defense challenged the integrity of the officers involved and the honesty of the warrant involved. Some of the people associated with that business were harasses for a long time after the dispensary case was resolved, including Jamie Fricke.
Fast-forward a few years. One of those defense attorneys has become the County Prosecutor and he had to decide to either drop or pursue a marijuana case involving Fricke and one of the original officers involved in the Dryden event, an individual who the now-Prosecutor has accused of deception, prejudice and improper conduct. Instead of tossing out the case with the defective cop he chose to push the prosecution, which brought the wrath of the justice system down upon his head.
Defense attorneys filed to have the prosecutor recused from the case for bias; a local judge agreed and tossed not only the prosecutor but his entire department, then instructed the state to assign a new team of lawyers to re-evaluate the merits of the case against Fricke. One woman and her attorney defeat an entire county.
POINT: Conduct raids appropriately
When police conduct raids they have rules. When they fail to follow those rules,there are consequences, up to an including dismissal of the case. That’s the point being made by Southfield attorney Neil Rockind and others as they defend a trio of men accused of growing marijuana.
The raid was conducted by local agents acting under federal authority as part of a DEA taskforce, per court testimony. Those agents felt no need to take into evidence any evidence confirming the men’s status as registered participants in the state medical marijuana program. A smart move, federally, because federal courts don’t have to recognize state-legal marijuana use as anything other than illegal drug activity.
Unfortunately for the agents, this case bounced back into the state court system so the absence of those medical marijuana documents is a crushing omission in evidence. Rockind has filed documents to force the dismissal of the case. Only when the cloak of federal blindness is removed and the full facts are known can patients be given a fair shot at justice.
POINT: Bad Laws can be ignored by the courts
When the highly controversial package of legislation known as the Walsh Bills was passed in Michigan it was during a lame duck session of the legislature at the end of 2012, at the eleventh hour, in the wee hours of the morning and over the opposition of most medical marijuana patients. Those bills made numerous changes to the laws directly governing or also affecting those patients, the way they are certified and their behavior.
One of the most radical changes came in the way medical marijuana- in fact, all marijuana- can be legally transported. The new ruling requires marijuana to be carries in a container in the trunk of the vehicle, or in a place inaccessible to the passenger compartment of the car if no trunk is available. Because the bill’s sponsors wanted to cast a wide net- making new offenses for patients and non-patients both- the change was made to the laws regarding driving and safety instead of amending the MMA itself.
Patient behavior is controlled by the language of the MMA, and there is a supremacy clause that protects patients from having their protections stripped away by end-around efforts like the Walsh Bills proposed. The changes took place in the first half of 2013, and one year later some jurisdictions in Michigan are refusing to honor the ‘transportation law’. Attorneys Michael Komorn, John Targowski and Daniel Grow have all discussed venues in the state where tickets are not issued and charges are not filed for violations.
Why the non-participation by the courts in a state-wide law? Because judges and prosecutors feel the law “was derived in an unconstitutional manner,” said Komorn during a recent broadcast of the Planet Green Trees Radio Show, a Michigan-based news and talk show that recently celebrated their four-year anniversary.
POINT: Activists suing from their jail cells
Derek Antol was one of nine people arrested in July in Muskegon for activities in the building shared by the Deuce’s Wild Smoke Shop. He and Samantha Conklin were charged with manufacture and delivery of marijuana in an investigation that dates back to 2010; the other six face lesser but serious charges.
They are fighting back, specifically with a federal civil rights lawsuit that argues “eight drug-enforcement officers violated Antol’s and Conklin’s Fourth Amendment constitutional rights against unreasonable and unlawful searches and seizures, as well as Antol’s son’s right not to be falsely arrested,” per John S. Hausman, writing on the MLive network. Antol’s 12-year old son was held ordered out of bed and away at gunpoint and was detained by officers in the raid, per the suit.
I’s not the first time that Antol and Conklin, activists in the medical marijuana community on the west side of Michigan, have been targeted by law enforcement for action; in 2011 they were targeted by police because their vehicle had “tinted windows,” and their medical marijuana was seized. That action sparked a pro-marijuana rally at Muskegon City Hall.
The two were arrested on July 24th, a Thursday; by Monday, July 28 the lawsuit was in place, filed while the two were behind bars. Antol’s bail was set of $100,000; Conklin, $50,000. Both are free now and the lawsuit moves forward.