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Federal Memo Forces Local Official To Plead Fifth In Medical Marijuana Case

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Michigan Medical CannabisBy Todd A. Heywood

An Oakland County Commissioner and former mayor of Ferndale was forced to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination during the trial of a medical marijuana patient last week.

Craig Covey was called to testify in the delivery and manufacture of marijuana case against Jason Van Sickle, reports the Oakland Press. Van Sickle was arrested after allegedly transferring some marijuana to undercover narcotics officers who had fake medical marijuana patient cards. The medical marijuana law passed by voters in 2008 allows patients to transfer excess marijuana to other patients.

As a public advocate for medical marijuana, Covey was called to testify about a dispensary that had been operating in Ferndale. He had at one time conducted a tour of the facility with the local media where he promoted the economic benefits of the dispensary and other related medical pot programs.

But just before Covey took the stand, Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Beth Hand read a federal memo on medical marijuana prosecutions.

The Oakland Press reports the relevant section of the memo reads:

“Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law.”

As a result, Covey consulted with Ferndale city attorneys before taking the stand. During his testimony he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination several times.

Van Sickle’s defense attorney James Rasor says the reading of the memo was an intimidation tactic.

“I thought he (Covey) was being threatened by the assistant prosecutor, as though he was some sort of criminal,” Rasor said.

Rasor probably has more than a little compassion for Covey, considering he is a Royal Oak City Council member and that body has taken several public votes on the issue of medical marijuana.

Oakland County Prosecutor officials deny there was intimidation. They noted they are obligated to warn people if they are putting themselves in a position where they might incriminate themselves in criminal activity.

– Article originally appeared in The Michigan Messenger

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