Monthly Archives: October 2011

Hire The Right Lawyer Right Away – Not Later

The title to this post seems obvious. Hire the right lawyer right away. Right? But too often, my firm and I are brought in to replace another lawyer or law firm in the middle of a case. Too often, the clients who hire us in the middle of a the case to replace other lawyers, had a chance to hire us in the beginning. How does that happen? The client’s interview us and express interest in hiring us but opt to hire someone “cheaper,” “less expensive,” or worse, someone recommended by a relative or “family friend.” Only in the middle of the case, do they realize that they should have hired us in the first place. These clients didn’t hire the right lawyer right away.

Here are some tips. When you interview a lawyer, make a realistic appraisal of the seriousness of your case. Clearly, you don’t need to hire a Washington D.C. insider who charges a $100,000.00 retainer to handle a traffic ticket in your home jurisdiction. But you’re not usually faced with choices that clear. If the charge in your case is at all serious, i.e., if you could go to prison/jail or suffer a lengthy period of probation or lose your driver’s license, then you should not hesitate to hire a “serious” lawyer.

Ask where did the person who referred the “other” lawyer to you hear about him/her. Was it at a gym? Are they bar friends? Do you know where they heard about the “other” lawyer? Ask. You might be surprised at the answer.

At Neil Rockind, P.C., we know where our clients and referral sources know us from — our cases and experience. Peer review groups and lawyer review groups have reviewed us — Neil Rockind has been recognized as one of the top 5% of lawyers in Michigan (Super Lawyers 2009-2011), one of the top criminal defense lawyers in three different areas of criminal defense (DBusiness Top Lawyers 2011-2012), the Best of Detroit (Hour Detroit Magazine) and one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers (National Trial Lawyers Association). Take a look at our results and case histories. Do your research. Hire the right lawyer right away.

Neil Rockind, Top Criminal Defense Lawyer (dbusiness)

Is Neil Rockind the most honored criminal defense lawyer in 2012?  You be the judge.  

1) Best of Detroit (Hour Magazine)
2) Top Lawyer (dbusiness magazine)
 -DUI/DWI Defense
 -White Collar Cases
 – Non White Collar Cases
3) Super Lawyer (Super Lawyer Magazine)
4) Marijuana Policy Project (Recommended in Michigan)
5) NTLA Top 100 Trial Lawyers

Patient Advocates Sue Obama Justice Department Over Medical Marijuana Crackdown

San Francisco, CA — Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s largest medical marijuana advocacy organization, filed suit in federal court today challenging the Obama Administration’s attempt to subvert local and state medical marijuana laws in California. ASA argues in its lawsuit that the Obama Justice Department (DOJ) has “instituted a policy to dismantle the medical marijuana laws of the State of California and to coerce its municipalities to pass bans on medical marijuana dispensaries.” The DOJ policy has involved aggressive SWAT-style raids, criminal prosecutions of medical marijuana patients and providers and threats to local officials for merely implementing state law.

“Although the Obama Administration is entitled to enforce federal marijuana laws, the Tenth Amendment forbids it from using coercive tactics to commandeer the law-making functions of the State,” said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who filed the lawsuit today in San Francisco’s federal District Court. “This case is aimed at restoring California’s sovereign and constitutional right to establish its own public health laws based on this country’s federalist principles.” The ASA lawsuit, which seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, was filed on behalf of its 20,000 members in California who are directly and adversely affected by the DOJ actions.

On October 7th, California’s four U.S. Attorneys announced in a highly unusual joint press conference that the DOJ would be engaging in a multi-pronged attack on the State’s medical marijuana laws involving enforcement action against State-compliant producers and distributors as well as threatening their landlords with criminal prosecution and civil asset forfeiture. In addition, the same U.S. Attorneys have been sending threatening letters to several municipalities across the state in an attempt to undermine the passage of local medical marijuana regulations.

  • On July 1st, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California sent a letter to Chico Mayor Ann Schwab stating that the city’s proposed ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries would violate federal law. U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner also warned Chico’s City Attorney, City Manager, and Police Chief that council members and staff could face federal prosecution for its attempts to implement such a law. As a result, the Chico City Council voted on August 2nd to rescind its medical marijuana dispensary ordinance.

 

  • On August 15th, the Eureka City Council received a letter from the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California threatening that its regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries violates federal law. Similar to the letter sent to Chico, the Eureka letter stated that the city’s publicly vetted licensing scheme “threatens the federal government’s efforts to regulate, the possession, manufacturing, and trafficking of controlled substances.” The letter added that, “If the City of Eureka were to proceed, this office would consider injunctive actions, civil fines, criminal prosecution, and the forfeiture of any property used to facilitate a violation of [federal law].” Because of these threats, the City of Eureka has suspended implementation of its local ordinance.

The federal actions announced on October 7th by U.S. Attorneys have also derailed the regulatory efforts of local governments in Arcata, El Centro, Sacramento and other municipalities across the state. Less than a week after the DOJ press conference, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) conducted an early morning raid on October 13th at Northstone Organics, a fully-licensed cultivation collective in Mendocino County. The DEA handcuffed the collective’s founder and his wife and cut down all 99 plants, which were each zip-tied and registered with the Sheriff’s Department. Mendocino has one of the most tightly controlled cultivation ordinances in the state.

Several local and state officials have publicly blasted the Obama Administration’s tactics. In a recent statement, Mendocino County Supervisor Josh McCowen called the DEA raid on Northstone “outrageous,” and said “The elimination of dispensaries that operate legally and openly will endanger patients and the public.” Last week, the co-author of California’s Medical Marijuana Program Act, State Senator Mark Leno “urge[d] the federal government to stand down in it massive attack on medical marijuana dispensaries.” On October 21st, State Attorney General Kamala Harris issued a statement renouncing the federal government’s tactics, claiming that “an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine,” and urging “federal authorities in the state to adhere to the [DOJ’s] stated policy” of allowing California to implement its medical marijuana laws without federal interference.

Although the lawsuit accuses the Obama Administration of commandeering California’s legislative function and interfering with local laws meant to distinguish between medical and non-medical use, it does not challenge the federal government’s authority to adopt and enforce federal marijuana laws. The lawsuit states that, “It is, rather, the…misuse of the government’s Commerce Clause powers, designed to deprive the State of its sovereign ability to chart a separate course, that forms the basis of plaintiffs’ claims.”

Further information:
ASA lawsuit filed today: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/ASA_v_Holder.pdf
U.S. Attorney letter threatening Chico officials: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/DOJ_Threat_Letter_CA_Chico.pdf
U.S. Attorney letter threatening Eureka officials: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/DOJ_Threat_Letter_CA_Eureka.pdf

Medical Marijuana Takes Another Step Backwards in Macomb County

Judge: Medical marijuana cards merely a defense, not a guarantee; marijuana charges reinstated against 2 men

Local law enforcement won a recent court decision in a medical marijuana case when a Macomb County Circuit Court judge reversed a district court judge who invalidated an arrest warrant against two men.

Judge David Viviano overturned Judge William Hackel III of 42-II District Court in New Baltimore and reinstated drug manufacturing charges against Kent R. Currie, 39, of Kimball Township, and Dean M. Ferretti, 36, of Clinton Township, for an alleged marijuana-growing operation in Lenox Township.

Assistant Macomb prosecutor William Dailey was pleased with the ruling, saying it will help guide medical marijuana users in what they can do and police in their actions in enforcing marijuana laws in light of the state Medical Marihuana Act.

“The more courts interpret the statute and make concrete rulings, it becomes easier for people to know when they’re running afoul of the MMA,” he said. “And it provides more guidance for law enforcement.

“We look forward to the opportunity to present our case in court.”

The men were originally charged identically with three counts of delivery or manufacture of marijuana and maintaining a drug house.

A new court date has not been set.

The case originated in early 2010 when police began an investigation based on a tip. Officers stopped Currie and Ferretti on Jan. 21, 2010, as they drove away from a home on 28 Mile Road and found two bags containing 12.1 ounces of marijuana. Currie and Ferretti presented cards issued through the state Medical Marihuana Act, but police still arrested them and raided the house.

Hackel threw out the case, ruling the warrant invalid. He said police should have tried to obtain a new warrant from a judge with the additional information.

But Viviano recently ruled the warrant remained good because possession of MMA cards merely provides the men a defense against criminal charges.

“Defendants … may assert the immunity and defense provisions of the MMA if they have complied with MMA’s requirements to avoid prosecution,” Viviano says in the opinion. “The possibility that defendants have an affirmative defense to the charges does not negate probable cause of issuing the warrant.”

Viviano notes that Currie and Ferretti appeared to violate the MMA as they “possessed marijuana in excess of the statutory limit and sold marijuana.”

Each patient card holder is allowed to possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana and 12 plants. Caregiver card holders are allowed to possess marijuana for five patients and themselves. The law says caregivers may receive “compensation for costs,” the law says.

It is unclear whether Currie and Ferretti possessed patient or caregiver cards.

Detective Brian Shock of Roseville police, which received the initial tip in the case, testified at the district court preliminary examination that an informant told him Currie was selling “good” marijuana for $300 per ounce to the informant, who did not have an MMA card.

Police had other evidence of a “large marijuana grow operation” at the house, Viviano says. DTE Energy indicated the residence had two energy meters that showed “a very large increase” in use, and thermal imaging showed “heat anomalies consistent with indoor marijuana manufacturing,” the judge says.

via The Oakland Press

District Court Judge Rules that the Weight of Medical Marijuana Edibles Includes ALL Ingredients

In a case in New Baltimore, MI (not handled by Neil Rockind, P.C.), Judge Hackel released an opinion approximately 3 weeks ago that, if it’s upheld on appeal, will severely limit the possession of medical marijuana edibles.

You can read the opinion HERE

In short, Judge Hackel held that law enforcement can weigh the ENTIRE edible (brownie, rice krispy treat, etc.) when attempting to determine the total weight of the medical marijuana in issue. In other words, if you start with 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana, but you bake that marijuana into cookies equaling 20 ounces in total – then you are on the hook for 20 ounces of medical marijuana – and thus would not be covered by the protections of the Medical Marijuana Act.

In my opinion, based on Judge Hackel’s previous medical marijuana rulings, I believe that Judge Hackel did NOT want to rule this way – I think he believed that he had no choice (based on the use of the word “mixture” within the Act and the ordinary definition for “mixture”).

However, I don’t think that Judge Hackel took into account that the Medical Marijuana Act is a citizen initiative and is thus supposed to be “interpreted liberally” to construe the meaning behind the intent of the original voters. In fact, in his opinion, Judge Hackel goes so far as to state that he doesn’t think that the rationale behind his opinion was what was intended by the voters. This should have been enough for Judge Hackel to rule opposite. But he didnt. And now the Medical Marijuana community is left with another opinion that severely restricts their use of a substance that is supposed to be legal for medical use.

Interestingly, this opinion seems to suggest that the electorate intended and would rather that people inhale their medication – as opposed to consuming their medication. Which doesn’t make sense, given that one of the arguments against medical marijuana in the first place was that the smoke is dangerous to a person’s body.

The war against medical marijuana in Michigan continues…

PART 3 – Neil Rockind on Michigan Town Hall Live – Medical Marijuana Roundtable – Oct. 10, 2011