An Oakland County Circuit Court judge dismissed all charges against the seven people involved in a controversial case involving Ferndale medical marijuana dispensary Clinical Relief.
Neil Rockind, who represented Clinical Relief co-owner Ryan Richmond, said all parties appeared Wednesday afternoon before Judge Daniel O’Brien for the purpose of oral arguments concerning previously filed motions. After hearing arguments by defense counsel and the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, O’Brien issued his opinion: All charges against all defendants were dismissed.
“I think that Judge O’Brien issued a very insightful and well-reasoned opinion and it took a lot of courage for him to issue that opinion in a high profile case,” Rockind said.
Clinical Relief operators arrested in 2010 raid
Charges were initiated against the operators of Clinical Relief after a controversial raid at the dispensary in mid-2010 by local and county police that came just days after the Ferndale City Council voted to lift a moratorium on medical marijuana businesses.
Before the raid, undercover officers had reportedly used fake medical marijuana cards to purchase marijuana at the Ferndale dispensary.
Attorney says defendants were trying to assist patients
Rockind said the operators were acting with only the intention to follow the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, which he said has language protecting the operators from prosecution or penalty if they were in the process of trying to assist a patient.
“Each one of our clients believed while working at Clinical Relief that they were assisting patients with using medical marijuana,” he said.
Clinical Relief co-owner Ryan Richmond could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Rockind said the judge believed the sentence in the act regarding protection against prosecution was “ambiguous and subject to different interpretation.”
“As a result it would be unfair to allow people to be prosecuted. It’s a very important decision,” Rockind said, but pointed out that the opinion would only apply to the defendants in this case because of other court cases that have occurred since the charges were filed against them. “The only people that would really apply to are the seven people who were dismissed in the Clinical Relief case. It’s a unique case.”
Oakland County prosecutor plans to appeal
Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said the county plans to appeal the case. “We are, of course, going to appeal this,” Cooper said Thursday. “We are working on making that happen right now.”
As for medical marijuana, for Cooper, it’s simple: “Comply and you will not be prosecuted,” she said.
“This isn’t about politics. It’s not about anything but the law. I just apply the facts to the law,” she said.
As for the act being unclear, Cooper said many are in compliance.
“There are a lot of folks out there who are in compliance with this act and nobody ever bothers them or tries to stop them,” Cooper said. “It’s people so far out of compliance that get into trouble and then say, ‘The act is so confusing.’”
Former Ferndale mayor Craig Covey, now a county commissioner who has spoken out in favor of the Medical Marihuana Act, was not available for comment Thursday.
Need to amend Medical Marijuana Act
Chuck Semchena, a former Royal Oak City Commissioner who has been outspoken about medical marijuana laws, said Wednesday’s ruling is an additional reason why elected officials in Lansing need to pass proposed bills that will amend different sections of the Medical Marijuana Act.
“It would make things so much clearer,” said Semchena, who as a Royal Oak city commissioner backed a series of resolutions to support proposed House bills that would amend the act. “So far (Lansing) has done nothing.”
Semchena said he does not expect the defense to succeed when the case goes to appeals court. “The pro marijuana people have lost every case that made it up to the appellate court,” Semchena said. “They will lose this one, too.”
Rockind said he is confident going into an appeal, but hopes the county will choose not to appeal.
“I wish they wouldn’t and would just let the case go. I think that the people who have been the targets of the Clinical Relief prosecution have gone through enough,” he said.