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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Michigan News for February 2016 - by Rachel Bunting

Dispensaries Help Flint
Flint: While Flint residents struggle with the continuous water crisis in the city, businesses around the city and across the nation are doing their part to help. This includes medical marijuana businesses such as the Green Bean and Green RX. Green RX, jointly owned by Brooke Malik and former Pistons player Ben Wallace, is not yet open but still held a water giveaway in their parking lot on the 25th. They brought in 600 cases of water to distribute to anyone who needed it.

     Rachelle Arnott, owner of the Green Bean, started raising money to help the citizens of Flint in mid-January and told ABC 12 News they had already raised around $1,200 with a promise to match any donation – up to $5,000. “Flint is our home community we love it here,” Arnott told ABC, “and obviously with this big crisis here we definitely wanted to give a helping hand in helping the city of Flint.” Arnott went on to point out that even her customer’s medication is suffering due to the water problem saying, “You know this is essentially a weed. And a weed can’t even grow in this. So this is killing peoples’ medicine and they can’t have their medicine like they normally have because of the water.” Though many may disagree with the type of product the dispensaries sell, these businesses are doing what they feel is right to help their community.

Grow with Care
Grand Rapids: A 37 year-old Grand Rapids man is in the hospital with critical injuries resulting from a house fire earlier this month. While the police department would not comment on exact details, they did tell mLive the explosion which started the fire was caused by a marijuana grow operation in the home. The 37 year-old suffered severe burns and smoke inhalation, a 29 year-old also at the scene was treated and released for non-life threatening injuries, while another 29 year-old and a 6 year-old at the home were unharmed. Fire officials indicated the grow was a legal operation, but police refuse to comment if the grow was medicinal or if the grower was registered with the state. This is the second explosion in a month related to grow operations in Michigan.

Not Good for You or Your Plants
Flint: The water crisis of Flint has been reported on constantly, not only by our own state news but nationally as well. It is a problem affecting every citizen of Flint, no matter the race, religion, age, or socio-economic status. While most think of the water they drink or bathe in, many forget to consider what they are feeding their plants. High Times spoke with Michigan State University’s professor of biology, Frank Telewski, about the possible implications from using Flint’s water on medicinal marijuana plants.  Telewski told the magazine that plants grown with the water are most definitely contaminated, “lead is absorbed in living tissues and it does not biodegrade. If lead is soluble, it is getting in the plants.” Most gardeners already use the reverse osmosis process, which removes lead and other chemicals from the water supply, to water their garden, and those who don’t are able to get clean water from many hydroponic and gardening stores around the city.

     Dispensaries in the city have not yet had any complaints about the quality of their products, nor have they seen much of a difference in the marijuana being produced and sold, but this could be because many growers are already living and growing away from the high crime area of Flint and so their plants have not been exposed. Patients in the area that grow their own medicine are having more difficulty as higher concentrations of lead can make it impossible to grow anything at all, leaving patients that may not have the money for dispensary marijuana out of the medicine they need. The water problem in Flint is affecting people, pets, and now medicine.

Police Raid Caregiver – No Charges?
Livingston County: Police raided various locations this month seizing the property of 12 people, none of whom have had court charges filed against them since the raid. The locations raided were all connected to Darryl Berry, a caregiver in Howell Township. Berry claims the police stole from him as well as people he had visited or taught to grow. According to the Detroit Free Press, police seized around 556 plants, 15 pounds of marijuana, 7 pounds of processed marijuana, possible medibles as well as $195,983 in cash.

     Berry claims officers of the Western Wayne Narcotics and Criminal Investigations Unit destroyed his home, flipping beds and emptying drawers onto the floor. He maintains that since his home was first raided in 2012, he has invited police into his garden to make sure he is doing everything legally. However, according to court documents, the 12 people targeted were believed to be “involved in the growth and distribution of marijuana under the guise of the Medical Marihuana Act.” The civil suit to seize homes, cash, cellphones, computers, vehicles, guns, and bank accounts from the 12 named in the documents is still pending. Berry is defending himself, however, saying he did not sell marijuana but instead received “donations” from other caregivers and had “researched every part of the law and made sure there was no chance I’d be illegal.”

     The investigative unit disagrees,  asserting that Berry was paying people to use their property for separate grow operations, something he vehemently denies, though deed records show he does own one of the other houses raided. Berry is accusing police of outright stealing from him with the intention of selling his product to dispensaries for the officers’ personal gain because, as he says, “To them I’m just a drug dealer and they are 200 officers who don’t get paid what they should get paid.” A tentative bench trial has been set for November regarding the seized property.

Synthetic Charge Thrown Out
Grand Haven: Max Lorincz was charged in early 2015 with possession of marijuana after police came to his home responding to a medical call and found a small amount of marijuana oil. Lorincz, who has been using medical marijuana for a back injury, claimed that he is a legally registered medical marijuana patient and refused to plead guilty to the charge. Shortly after, county prosecutors upgraded the charge to a felony, claiming results from the crime lab identified the THC as unknown in origin because no plant material could be found. Lorincz’s attorney, Michael Komorn, claims, “some prosecutors across the state have pressured the crime lab to report oils and waxes as ‘origin unknown’ to allow them to pursue harsher charges.”

     Ottawa County Prosecutor Ron Frantz, however, defends the charge, telling mLive it is a “legal question of statutory interpretation. The court’s decision turned on definitions and statutory language that we believed supported the charge as written. The District Court Judge found our interpretation to be correct.” The County Circuit judge did not agree, however, and threw out the felony charge against Lorincz. While this is a small victory, Lorincz still has further to go as his 6 year-old son was placed in foster care shortly after charges were filed over a year ago.

Warren Faces Lawsuits
Warren: Two companies looking to start medical marijuana grow operations in Warren are suing the city for violating the MMMA. The businesses, Macomb Supreme Industrial and JJN, are attempting to get court orders to force the Warren Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to overturn a decision made by a zoning inspector that denied a certificate of compliance with the local zoning ordinance. The zoning inspector, Everett Murphy, is denying allegations that he declined to even look at the applications, let alone that he never “processed” them. Instead he claims he denied the applications because medical marijuana is not specifically listed in the zoning ordinance.

     After appealing the decision to the zoning board, which unanimously sided with Murphy, the companies filed against the city. The Oakland Press reported the lawsuit as saying, “Appellee’s denial of (each company’s) application was arbitrary, capricious, and/or clearly an abuse or unwanted exercise of discretion for the reason that the denial was based on a proposed use which is lawful, is protected conduct under the laws of the State of Michigan, and a municipality cannot ban such conduct. Further, the denial was based on the state of mind of the administrator at the time he denied ... application.”

     An attorney for the two corporations, Denise Pollicella, has said this application cannot be blocked “just because the activity or type of operation isn’t mentioned among the uses mentioned in Warren’s zoning ordinance”.  She also points out that less controversial businesses would not have this problem when trying to get their application approved even if the business was not specifically listed in the ordinance. To list every possible business that could come to a commercial area would be thousands of pages long. This is not the first medical marijuana lawsuit brought against the city. Last September, 23 individuals sued the city due to being ticketed for bogus zoning violations.

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