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Monday, December 7, 2015

Michigan News for December 2015 by Rachel Bunting

 Police Reposition Opinion on Marijuana
LANSING: While most law enforcement officials in Michigan refuse to completely support any proposal to legalize marijuana in the state, they are not going to stand in the way either. According to mLive, Howell Police Chief said, “While law enforcement cannot support any legislation that by definition is illegal under federal law due to the classification of marijuana, what we can do is find a position not to oppose having a tough and tight regulatory framework.” This means that while police cannot support any legalization proposal, they will not fight against a proposal they see as detailed and well crafted.

While medical marijuana has been legal in Michigan since 2008, the framework for the law was ambiguous when it came to how marijuana may be ingested and the legality of dispensaries. Along with the many petitions going around the state proposing the legalization of marijuana, there is also a medical bill drawn up by Mike Callton which would not only tax and legalize dispensaries but would use a seed to sale tracking system and create guidelines for edibles as well as other non-smokable forms of marijuana.

     Many officers testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is currently considering House-approved legislation that would allow the state to license and regulate medical dispensaries. The enforcement officers proposed some changes to the medical marijuana bills themselves. One of those changes would be to throw out the caregiver system if dispensaries start becoming licensed. They believe if the dispensaries are licensed there would be no need for patients to have their own caregiver because they will be able to buy their medication at the store. Some also feel that the overages caregivers will undoubtedly have, will make its way to the black market especially since the Michigan State Police do not support caregivers selling to dispensaries. Law enforcement would also like to add language to the bill that would prevent any form of home delivery or internet sales by dispensaries as well as putting strict regulations on those transporting the medication to ensure it is delivered to the stores in a safe and secure way.

     And while the current proposal would allow state police to inspect the facilities, local and county police believe they should have that authority too. It was also suggested that if the caregiver system is not eliminated, caregivers should be subjected to similar inspections and licensing rules. The input from law enforcement officials will be taken by the Senate Judiciary Committee as recommendations and will continue to hear testimony throughout December before making any changes or decisions about the bills.

Raids in Kent County
PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP: The Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team (KANET) and Metropolitan Enforcement conducted raids on three marijuana dispensaries this month. KANET stated the teams began investigating the dispensaries earlier in the month after receiving reports that illegal marijuana sales were being conducted. Illegal marijuana sales from a medical marijuana dispensary means that the shop was not selling the medicine in the proper way outlined in the MMMA. Investigators say they ran multiple undercover visits and found all three dispensaries were violating the medical marijuana law. Police raided the stores with search warrants, questioned workers before releasing them, and seized marijuana and drug-related items. The police will now have to present their findings to the Kent County prosecutors who will determine what, if any, charges will be filed.

Detroit City Council Approves Dispensary Licensing
DETROIT: The Detroit City Council has approved an ordinance that will help slow down and prevent the over-saturation of dispensaries in the city, though the final approval may not come until January.

     The ordinances that have been approved not only will require dispensaries to be licensed through the city but will also dictate where they may not be set-up. Many in the area see this approval as a God-send because with no regulations more than 150 medical shops have opened across the city. However with the new regulations all dispensaries that are unlicensed will be shut-down, no new stores can open within 1,000ft of a school, church, or liquor store, and drive-through windows as well as 24-hr services are prohibited.

     All facilities and shop owners will be subject to inspections and background checks. Marijuana supporters feel that the over-board restrictions will leave few areas for medical shops to set up and will end up limiting the supply of medicine for people with legitimate needs. The council must still hold a public hearing on the matter which may not take place until after the New Year.

Cars Aren’t for Smoking Pot, Medical or Otherwise
MOUNT PLEASANT: A man from Mount Pleasant has been charged with a misdemeanor stemming from an arrest last year where he was found smoking marijuana in his car at Soaring Eagle Casino. While judges in Isabella County ruled the man’s car was not a public place and dismissed his case, the Michigan appeals court reversed that ruling after the prosecutor appealed the decision. The appeals court said that a car is private property but parking lots are generally open to the public and the state’s medical marijuana law bans use “in any public place.” This decision gives state prosecutors the go-ahead to take up charges against medical marijuana patients who are using their medication in their own vehicle in a public parking lot.

Questionable Police Purchases
LANSING: According to High Times, Michigan Law Enforcement agencies may be dipping into the Michigan Medical Marihuana Fund to make problematic purchases. The fund, which is supported by patients and caregivers through money they pay to the state for licensing, was intended to be used by law enforcement “for the operation and oversight of the Michigan medical marihuana program...operation and oversight grants are for education, communication, and enforcement of the MMMA.”

     Around $3 million was available to local sheriffs but only $167,000 was distributed to the four counties that applied for grants. Macomb County was one of those that applied for the grant and received $63,000. High Times states that “officers did not have the opportunity to attend training” but they did purchase a 2015 Dodge Durango and trailer to allow them to investigate participants in the marijuana program more easily. Of the $19,000 granted to Sanilac County, $5,400 was spent on tasers and $4,800 spent on iPads, the rest was spent on an ATV trailer and clothing.

     Other areas, such as Lapeer County, used the money granted to pay officers’ wages. St. Clair County also used most of the money granted (81 percent of it) to pay their officers but they did send the St. Clair County Drug Task Force to a 3-day training seminar in Lansing.

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