Several weeks after a city in Northern Michigan passed a zoning ordinance in support of local medical marijuana dispensaries, a number of federal and state law enforcement agencies descended upon two counties to bring down the heat on 12 dispensaries that they claim had been selling weed to people without a medical marijuana card.
Last Thursday, U.S. Homeland Security teamed up with the Michigan State Police and a number of sheriff's offices to conduct a massive raid on dispensaries and patients in the cities of Gaylord and Vanderbilt. Reports indicate that the search warrants were the result of a lengthy investigation into the unauthorized sale of medicinal cannabis products prohibited under state law.
In addition to the arrest of two men from Gaylord, law enforcement agencies seized 143 cannabis plants, 150 jars of marijuana, edible pot products, two automobiles and over $17,000 in cash during the raids. A press release issued by the Straits Area Narcotics Enforcement (SANE) stated that the arrests were for crimes ranging from the illegal production and distribution of marijuana products to illegal possession of prescription painkillers.
Lieutenant Ken Mills with SANE told Mlive.com that the raids were the result of a number of tips and traffic stops that led law enforcement to believe these criminal activities were taking place. However, other reports suggest that the recent action may have been a shakedown of revenge against the Gaylord City Council’s recent decision to approve protections for local medical marijuana dispensaries.
In May of 2015, Michigan State Police and their drug enforcement cronies swooped in to conduct raids on eight dispensaries operating in Gaylord. In an act of retaliation, a petition was filed on behalf of the dispensaries to make it legal for them to operate within the city limits without encountering further raids. Although there was speculation that the proposed ordinance would be shot down, the city council put their stamp of approval on the measure earlier this year—a move that suggested police should leave these operations alone.
But the most recent raids took place before any of the dispensaries could relish in the protections of the newly passed ordinance.
“Apparently the State Police wanted to squash businesses before they could gain the protection of local zoning laws,” wrote Rick Thompson, editor of the Compassion Chronicles.
A group of medical marijuana supporters plans to file a lawsuit against the Michigan State Police and Straits Area Narcotics Enforcement because they say the raids were a clear violation of the ordinance approved by the Gaylord City Council. However, city officials argue that the suit will not hold up in court because the raids had nothing to do with the zoning ordinance.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Michigan since 2008, but an amendment to the language of the law prohibits dispensaries from selling edible pot products, like candies, drinks or oils. It also prevents patients from having these types of products in their possession.
Although lawmakers have tried to change this portion of the law, the state legislature has been mostly unresponsive.
There is some question whether the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which is supposed to prevent the feds from doing this sort of thing to the medical marijuana community, should have protected the dispensaries. But the problem is the rider is only intended to prevent federal drug agents from conducting raids on dispensaries and patients in compliance with state law.
Interestingly, Thompson points out that the raids happened the day after last week’s Michigan primary, speculating that perhaps the police wanted to give the presidential candidates and the national media time to vacate the area before kicking down the first door.
(Photo Courtesy of Toke of the Town)