Detroit Raids Dispensaries Instead of Licensing Them
17 Feb, 2016
photo caption: attorney Barton Morris at Law Day 2015 protest in Lansing
by Rick Thompson/February 17, 2016
DETROIT– A number of area attorneys are telling The Compassion Chronicles that medical marijuana dispensaries are being raided by the Detroit Police Department, despite assurances that businesses of that type will begin licensing procedures on March 1.
Although attorneys are reluctant to release the names of the dispensaries involved, it seems more than a dozen raids or ‘visits’ by DPD have been executed in the last two weeks. Dispensaries in the city have been renamed “medical marihuana caregiver centers” (MMCC) by the City Council.
Under a pair of ordinances, the most recent one passed by Council in December, more than 200 existing businesses were given from March 1 until March 31 to apply for a license to operate.
“The Detroit Police raids are a tortious interference with a business expectancy,” Royal Oak attorney Barton Morris said. “The recent Detroit Police raids on MMCCs are unlawful and unconstitutional. The city should be legally estopped from taking any action to an issue they created and allowed.”
“The current policy to shut down, raid and deny safe access is a losing hand to play,” said Michael Komorn, an attorney from Southfield and the 2015 ‘Right To Counsel Award’ winner. “Medical cannabis is a public health issue, not a public safety issue.”
Komorn went on to add, “Detroit was one of remaining compassionate cities allowing safe access to medical cannabis. It has been difficult to watch the medical cannabis issue framed the way it has by the city government and community leaders. The lack of honest communication and dialogue seems to have detracted from diplomacy.”
Raiding in advance of the licensing process is a prime example of acting in bad faith, Morris pointed out. “The City has not only allowed dispensaries to operate by providing them certificates of occupancy, they enacted an ordinance to license and zone them,” Morris pointed out. “At the same time, they send the Detroit police to raid select dispensaries purporting to enforce state law. That is the ultimate hypocrisy.”
“These raids are discriminatory in nature and further persecute caregivers and the patients who need safe access to their medicine,” said Bruce Leach of Kirsch Leach PLC of Birmingham. “So many people will be negatively impacted by these raids; many will be thrown into the criminal justice system.”
Detroit’s Corporation Counsel, Melvin Hollowell, sent a letter to all 211 known medical marijuana dispensaries on February 2nd advising that their operations would continue “at your own risk.”
“Commercial locations conducting medical marihuana activities that are located in a “Drug Free Zone” will not be permitted… Continued operation of commercial locations conducting medical marihuana activities… without required City of Detroit approvals for licensing and zoning is “at your own risk.”” (emphasis and italics included in the original document)
Morris charges that the actual shuttering of dispensaries by DPD is not only hypocritical, it is unlawful.
“The department defends their actions stating they are targeting dispensaries that are selling to individuals without cards and that are the subjects of unlawful behavior,” Morris said. “If this is true, they are violating the constitutionally protected right of due process.
“Just because they (DPD) say that a MMCC sold to an undercover cop without a card does not make it true. Their raid steals all money, property and vehicles that are on site without any criminal charges. There is no opportunity to contest their allegation in court. You cannot challenge that issue during a forfeiture proceeding.
“They are terrorists and thieves, plain and simple.”
Further concerns were raised about the nature of the raids and the accuracy of testing results from materials confiscated by police. “The Detroit Police completely violate patient and caregiver’s rights by unnecessarily trashing the property of their targets,” Morris added. “They purposefully and maliciously destroy shelving, walls, ceilings, and break display cases. They are doing so to send a message and to discourage the operator not to re-open.”
The play to potentially shutter over 200 healthy and successful businesses in the city seems contradictory to attorney Komorn. “Are there so many new jobs and additional revenue being generated right now in Detroit that that it makes sense to shut down successful businesses?” he asked. “Is Detroit so financially healthy that it can afford to say no, shut down and raid?”
The Michigan State Police Crime Lab is embroiled in a scandal over the politicization of scientific test results where marijuana concentrates are concerned. Linden, Michigan’s Jeff Frazier, Esq., and the Komorn Law team exposed the controversy; he questioned the ability of the police to make correct determinations of the substances found during these raids.
“In keeping with past practices, we can expect the police crime lab to falsely report any edibles seized as synthetic schedule 1 THC,” Frazier said. “Of course, given the enormous backlog in the crime lab where marijuana cases account for 40% of the daily load, this absurd dispensary preoccupation will only further delay the testing of the thousands of rape kits currently backlogged in the MSP’s corrupt crime lab system.
“Good business for the cops. Bad business for Michigan women.”
One attorney feels the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the legislature, who have earned the wrath of patients groups for both failing to pass patient/business protections and for manipulation of existing legislation for corporate interest.
Matthew Abel is the Chair of the Michigan chapter of NORML, is a Board member of the MILegalize organization, and is the principal counsel at Cannabis Counsel, PLC, of Detroit.
“It is unfortunate that the Michigan legislature has abdicated their responsibility to effectively represent the citizens of Michigan, causing municipalities to adopt a patchwork of inconsistent regulations statewide,” Abel told The Compassion Chronicles.
Others questioned the language of the ordinance itself. Many experts feel the ordinance’s zoning rules will lead to extensive litigation by business entities denied the right to operate through a licensing process that fails to recognize the separation of church and state. “The city council’s ordinance has the unfortunate potential to immediately make many people criminal defendants,” said attorney Bernard Jocuns of Lapeer, who is Chair of the new Marijuana Law Section of the Michigan State Bar Association. “The “hold the line” stance on many of the formal requirements has the potential to leave a chilling effect on a city that is on a positive rebound in many ways.”