Michigan’s Medical Pot Law Under Scrutiny in Oakland County Court

Ferndale— A former elementary school classroom is serving as a court today for nine Oakland County residents charged in a case where local law enforcement is challenging the state’s law that allows distribution of marijuana for medical purposes.

The crowd of clients, defense lawyers and supporters was too large for the city’s tiny 43rd District Court, and Judge Joseph Longo wasted no time in reigning in the group’s enthusiastic support for those charged in the case.

“No,” the judge shouted when the crowd applauded defense attorney Thomas Loeb’s stipulation that marijuana and other drugs taken under a search warrant from the business and home of operators of Clinical Relief, “was some of the best medicine available under state law.”

“That’s not going to happen so stop that right now,” the judge sternly admonished the crowd, “or you will not be allowed to sit here.”

The accused were among 16 arrested Aug. 25 across Oakland County and charged with violating the state’s medical marijuana act. All are free on bond and their cases were combined from various district courts. An alleged warehouse in Macomb County also was busted.

Lawyers for the defendants have said no laws were broken because the clinic operated within the rules established by the law enacted by voters. They also claimed in court today that Oakland County’s prosecutor and sheriff have brought these charges to test the state’s law because they claim it is badly defined and has resulted in widespread abuse.

Roughly 50 peaceful activists gathered outside the makeshift courtroom this afternoon — some of whom were from the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers — in support of the defendants and the law, carrying signs such as “Patients are not criminals” and “God made pot. Man made beer.”

Arrests and confusion statewide resulted last month in a call from a Michigan Court of Appeals judge to state legislators to clarify the “inartfully drafted” measure, which he said has become a “nightmare.”

Under the law, people who have obtained a doctor’s approval and a state-issued card from the Michigan Department of Community Health are permitted to possess and use up to 2½ ounces of marijuana to alleviate pain. A licensed caregiver is permitted to grow up to 12 plants in controlled situations and sell marijuana to up to five patients.

The Michigan Department of Community Health reports it has received 69,530 applications for medical marijuana cards. It has approved 37,730.

Candace Rushton, a Troy police officer serving as an undercover investigator with the Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Team, testified today about being sent by her commanders to use a counterfeit medical marijuana recipient’s card in July to trick workers at Clinical Relief, a dispensary located in a storefront building on Ferndale’s Hilton Road, into selling her an eighth of an ounce of marijuana.

The officer said she lied to a clinic worker that she suffered severe headaches and neck pain from a car crash. She said she later brought another detective to the clinic, and she received a free gram of marijuana for bringing a new patient.

“You are aware Michigan passed a medical marijuana a law in 2008,” Loeb asked Rushton. “So you know what is supposed to happen is a person is screened by a real doctor to get a real medical marijuana card? You know your card was a creation?”

Defense attorney Jerome Sabbota pointed out there was no way for the clinic to confirm whether the undercover cop’s medical marijuana card was real because the state’s health department considers it to be a private medical record.

“The employees of Medical Relief relied on the card to determine whether a person is qualified,” defense lawyer Cheryl Carpenter said. “These cards look valid. The sheriff went to great time and effort to make them look real.”

In the raids, police took medical records, various quantities and types of marijuana, including in candy form. Police reported they were able to buy marijuana without proper identification and also witnessed open sales and exchanges between unlicensed persons.

The court hearing is expected to continue through today and resume with testimony from the detective in charge of the investigation on Friday.

Detective Derek Myers received permission to delay his testimony until the end of the week because he was too tired today. Myers, also an undercover officer, was up all night after being involved in an exchange of gunfire with alleged wrongdoers late Tuesday, according to Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor Beth Hand.

via The Detroit News

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