200 rally in opposition to recent Prosecutor actions; Grand Rapids, Bay City police raid dispensaries
This week was filled with ups and downs- and even further downs- for the Michigan medical marijuana community, including Wednesday raids in Grand Rapids, Friday protests in Jackson and a dispensary raid in Bay City.
The Michigan Supreme Court’s January 2013 ruling in the McQueen case severely limited the types of transfers allowed under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA). It also gave recognition to the Isabella County tactic of using Cease and Desist letters to entities with the intent of shuttering their buildings as public nuisances. Since that Opinion was issued, many cities and counties have sent the letters- or threatened to do so- resulting in the closure of more than half of the dispensaries and other distribution points across Michigan.
On Wednesday March 6 the Grand Rapids Vice Unit raided at least three dispensaries in that city. Natural Wellness, Purple Med and Mid-Michigan Compassion Club were the facilities; police seized everything of value- including the pictures on the wall.
Dave Overholt of Mid-Michigan Compassion Club insists that their business model was modified to conform to the Supreme Court ruling. “A patient would have to arrive with their caregiver in order to receive their meds, or their caregiver would have to be present to pick up their meds for their patients,” he told the local ABC affiliate.
ET, a club in Bay City, was also reported to have been raided on Friday. ET’s business model was altered to conform to the Court ruling, too, but local prosecutors and police seem intent on making seizures or closures based solely on the nature of the business instead of an actual incident of criminality.
The Supreme Court offered a civil method of resolution; instead, Bay City and Grand Rapids have chosen to take a criminal prosecution method. Although these clubs may eventually have their business models ruled as legal and conforming, the immediate asset forfeiture and interruption of commerce is an intimidation other businesses do not have to endure.
Head of the Grand Rapids Vice Unit told MLive that Grand Rapids police had felt the dispensaries were operating illegally even before the Supreme Court ruling. “They just didn’t want us to be in business,” Overholt said. “But we’re not doing anything wrong.”
On Friday, more than 200 patients and supporters rallied against the closure of distribution centers in Jackson County.
Jackson is, in many ways, a microcosm for the entire state’s frustration with the confusing signals being sent from Lansing by the judiciary and the legislature.
The County was once a robust example of integrating cannabis-based businesses into regular community life with nary a problem. At least 18 different safe access centers operated in Jackson County in early 2013- until county prosecutors began shutting them down less than a week ago.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jarzynka had previously identified 18 businesses to be targeted for the letters, according to an MLive article: 10 in Blackman Township, five in the city of Jackson, two in Leoni Township and one in Henrietta Township. On Feb. 22 he sent the cease and desist letters.
The Jackson County Tower Building was the scene of the large local protest, which brought in activists from across the state. ”It was impressive. When you pulled into town there was a big sea of colorful signs and it was impossible to miss it,” said Jamie Lowell of Ypsilanti’s 3rd Coast Compassion Center.
“Jackson is an area that has been tolerant in the past… it was only because of this ruling that they felt compelled to send out these letters, to take action in an area where there really hasn’t been a problem before. There was no reason to disrupt a system that has been working solidly for 2-3 years.”
Joe Cain, leader of the rally and owner of the Jackson County Farmer’s Market, told The Compassion Chronicles: “It’s real simple. They need to restore access to these patients. There’s a lot of people out there hurting… People have no access to their medicine and they are really hurting. The government needs to stand down while this political situation is occurring and let us take care of the sick while they take care of their business.”