FERNDALE – With nine defendants facing charges following the raid of a Ferndale medical marijuana facility last month, officials from the Ferndale 43rd District Court were forced to find a larger location for the next court date. The district court building, an undersized former mattress store, was recently deemed unsuitable for such a large hearing. Then, after court officials learned that the Oakland County Commissioners Auditorium in Pontiac was unavailable for the Nov. 3 preliminary exam, they settled on an alternate location: the Kulick Community Center.
“There are nine defendants and nine attorneys, so we do not have enough space to accommodate them in our courtroom,” said Court Administrator Linda Carroll. “We have the Kulick Center reserved for the whole day, and if they don’t finish (the preliminary exam) by then, we also have the building reserved for Nov. 5.” Carroll added that in her 16 years at the Ferndale District Court, she could not recall another time when a court proceeding had to be moved to a different location. “It’s certainly not very common,” she said.
The unusual circumstances will accompany a case that is the first of its kind in the state of Michigan.
Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard has called this a “test case” for courts to determine the legal interpretation of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act that was approved by voters in November 2008.
On the evening of Aug. 25, the county’s Narcotics Enforcement Team raided three businesses – including Clinical Relief, located at 362 Hilton Road in Ferndale, and two others in Waterford – and 13 homes and arrested 17 people for violating medical marijuana laws.
The officers also seized about $30, 000 in cash, hundreds of marijuana plants, large quantities of dried marijuana, marijuana brownies and candies, hash oil, thousands of patient records, packaging materials, grow lights, scales, guns, computers and more.
Two days later, nine employees of Clinical Relief – Anthony Agro, Barbara Agro, Nicholas Agro, Matthew Curtis, Stacey Ellenbrook, Ryan Fleissner, Barbara Johnson, Ryan Richmond and Angelina Veseli – were arraigned in Ferndale District Court on multiple counts of delivery and manufacture of a controlled substance.
However, defense attorney Neil Rockind – who is representing Richmond, one of the three owners of Clinical Relief – maintained that the Ferndale establishment has done nothing wrong.
“They were following the law, which is based on compassion,” he said. “The people of Michigan passed this law so that anyone who needs medical marijuana is able to get it. With this case, we are fighting not only for these employees, but also for all the patients out there and everyone who may need access to this medicine at some point in their life.” According to Richmond, Clinical Relief reopened for business on Aug. 28 – one day after the arraignments took place – and has continued its operations ever since.
Rockind contended that employees at Clinical Relief, which first opened in Ferndale in June and has a second location in Lansing, have always conducted their business in an open, transparent and responsible manner. He believes that the county Sheriff ‘s Office is “wasting taxpayer money and dragging the names of innocent people through the mud” with these arrests.
“Their time and energy would be better spent elsewhere,” Rockind said. “All this case is going to do is create more suffering.” But Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper argued that the fault lies with the state law itself, not with county officials who acted based on what they interpreted as violations of a brand-new system.
“This is a very specific law with lots of limitations and restrictions,” she said. “It is an exemptive act only for people who qualify, and if they do not qualify, then they will be prosecuted. What we’re seeing are a lot of blatant attempts to abuse the act.” “If this is medicine that people really need,” she added, “then for their sake, it has to be regulated by the state. Otherwise, it’s just not fair to these patients.” A major bone of contention between the two sides is whether the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act even allows for medical marijuana dispensaries such as Clinical Relief to exist. Cooper believes that it does not, and she also pointed out that all marijuana use is illegal under federal law.
“Michigan does not have a statute providing for medical marijuana dispensaries,” she said. “Seven out of the 14 states with medical marijuana laws do, but Michigan is not one of them. This is really a no brainer.” However, Rockind strongly disagreed.
“The state law does not prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries,” he said. “From my reading of the law, there really seems to be no room for argument. Oakland County is attempting to enforce provisions that simply do not exist.” Many patients and caregivers from across the region seem to agree with Rockind: On Sept. 13, about 200 medical marijuana supporters gathered outside the Oakland County Sheriff ‘s Office in Pontiac to protest the raids of the Ferndale and Waterford facilities.
Ferndale Mayor Craig Covey believes that these types of demonstrations will continue and could make their way over to the Kulick Center on Nov. 3, when the preliminary exam for Clinical Relief employees takes place.
“I think you’re going to see a rising tide of protests,” he said. “The sheriff will end up costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars with these trials, and that’s a very expensive political message to be sending to Lansing. I also think that people may lash out come election time and choose not to re-elect these officials who are not following the will of the voters.”
Via Woodward Talk
Neil Rockind, P.C. is leading the way in Michigan Medical Marijuana Defense. If you or a loved one is faced with a violation of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, or an investigation by any policing agency regarding such a violation, please contact Neil Rockind, P.C. at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office directly at 248-208-3800 to schedule a free consultation!