Ferndale medical pot store cleared of crime

An Oakland County judge dismissed charges Wednesday against defendants in a case involving a Ferndale medical marijuana dispensary that was considered a test of the state’s new pot law.

Lawyers for the defendants in the case against Clinical Relief argued after their arrest in 2010 that what they were doing — operating or working in a marijuana dispensary — was legal and they believed they were following the rules of a law voters passed in 2008, said attorney Neil Rockind.

Ryan Fleissner, 31, of Livonia, a former employee of the dispensary, said he was “elated and ecstatic, relieved and grateful.”

It was believed to be the first case of criminal prosecution involving a medical marijuana dispensary in Michigan.

Rockind praised the ruling, saying it was unfair to punish someone who in good faith was following an ambiguous law.

“In order to be accused of a crime and be convicted of a crime, you have to have criminal intent,” he said.

Jesse Williams, a Traverse City attorney who specializes in medical marijuana, said that while the ruling might not affect how patients have access to the drug, it was a “fair ruling.”

At the time of the arrests, language in the law described patient-to-patient dispensing of medical marijuana. Today, following an Appeals Court ruling, a caregiver is the only one who can give medication to patients who are registered to them.

Since the 2008 law, lawmakers have proposed scores of bills; there have been raids, arrests and charges against dispensaries and marijuana users. Lower courts have attempted to clarify what is regarded as a vague law; a Michigan Appeals Court ruling last year closed many of the state’s 400-500 dispensaries and banned patient-to-patient sales.

Rick Thompson, editor of Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, said the ruling will “be pivotal for the rest of the state because it sends a message… that there is not only one interpretation” of the marijuana act.

Fleissner and six others were arrested Aug. 25, 2010. Rockind said police forged medical marijuana cards to pass themselves off as patients and police signed attestations claiming to suffer from illnesses.

Rockind said he hopes that this decision will lead to amnesty for others convicted within the last two years but believed they followed the law.

via The Detroit News

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