An Oakland County judge on Wednesday dismissed drug conspiracy charges against the operators of a medical marijuana dispensary in Ferndale, a ruling defense attorneys are hailing as an important victory for dispensary owners who set up shop before the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled them illegal.
Circuit Court Judge Daniel O’Brien dismissed the case against seven defendants arrested in August 2010 at the Clinical Relief clinic on Hilton Road, ruling that they operated in good faith when they sold began selling medical marijuana earlier that year.
“Our legal system needs courageous judges,” said attorney Neil Rockind, who represented co-owner Ryan Richmond. “We need judges who are not afraid to make the right decision, even if it’s going to be unpopular with their peers.”
The Clinical Relief raid, part of a coordinated effort between local police and the office of Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, came only days after the Ferndale City Council voted unanimously to amend zoning ordinances to allow for medical marijuana clinics.
Earlier the same year, Clinical Relief owners invited local officials and law enforcement officers to tour their store, which then-Mayor Craig Covey praised as an opportunity to aid chronically-ill residents.
Undercover officers later used fake medical marijuana cards to purchase pot at Clinical Relief, building a case in advance of the August raid.
According to Rockind, the dispensary operators were “duped” and believed they were helping sick patients.
“A lot of people attempted to read this act and try to interpret it on their own,” he said. “They did it in good faith. Maybe they didn’t do it well. Maybe they didn’t do it the way the court of appeals has interpreted it. But they tried. We’ve always maintained that our clients lacked criminal intent.”
The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office has not responded to our request to discuss the ruling, but they reportedly plan to appeal.