|Photo: Edwyn W. Boyke|
|This photo was taken by legal medical marijuana patient Edwyn W. Boyke Jr., 64, of Saginaw Township, after police raided his home and destroyed his $7,000 grow setup.|
When U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Department raided Edwyn W. Boyke Jr.’s house on April 15, they didn’t just thuggishly bust up his grow room.
They also confiscated a lot of his property — including a car, TV, two lawnmowers, a little pocket cash, scales, five jars of harvested marijuana, little seedlings, and larger plants — along with Boyke’s Michigan medical marijuana card.
Boyke still hasn’t been charged with a crime, and he is legally allowed to grow and use marijuana under a law Michigan voters passed in a landslide with 63 percent of the vote in 2008, reports The Saginaw News.
|Photo: Edwyn W. Boyke|
Patients with a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana are registered with the Michigan Department of Public Health, but that department is not allowed to pass the information on to law enforcement personnel like the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Department. And the DEA was along for the raid because federal marijuana laws don’t recognize medical or any other valid use for marijuana.
Detectives from Saginaw County Sheriff William L. Federspiel’s department acted on a tip to federal DEA agents that Boyke was growing marijuana in his basement. They got a search warrant and raided the place, just as they’ve always done in marijuana cases. And what they got, in addition to Boyke’s property, is a public relations disaster.
Trouble is, the police were acting as if the law hasn’t changed. They were acting as if nobody in Michigan is legally allowed to grow and use marijuana, but that is no longer the case.
As is standard operating procedure for law enforcement, the raiding officers destroyed whatever they thought — or claimed to think — was used to grow and process marijuana.
And they took Boyke’s property, under Michigan’s quarter-century-old drug forfeiture law. Boyke eventually got those items back, but only after agreeing to pay $5,000 (what?) instead of appealing the confiscation in court.
Many community members were upset with the tactics of officers in the raid. The sheriff’s department announced last week that detectives will no longer destroy marijuana growing equipment; they claim they will now confiscate, rather than smash up, the gear.
“There’s so much that’s offensive in this case — one of several that have cropped up across the state in the past year or so — that’s it’s difficult to know where to begin,” The Saginaw News editorializes.
Under the extremely loose limits allowed under federal and state forfeiture laws for “ill-gotten gains” in the drug trade, police can seize almost anything they want, even cars and houses. Unlike human suspects, that property is considered guilty until its owner can prove it was obtained innocently, with legally gotten tender, not drug money.
Not many people other than civil liberty advocates protested much when the draconian forfeiture laws, heartily endorsed by law enforcement, were passed, supposedly to combat the drug trade. Nobody said anything much when the seized property was sold or otherwise used to fight the “War On Drugs.”
But now, people like 64-year-old patient Boyke, one of Michigan’s 20,000 legal medical marijuana patients, are suffering due to the harsh, badly flawed, badly written forfeiture law.
“Our state legislators should take it up, and revise it to something more in step with America as most of us understand it — the land of the free,” the News editorializes. “The burden of proving law enforcers were right in taking it should rest squarely with prosecutors and police.”
“This fall may be exactly the right time for our state’s vast number of term-limited, lame-duck legislators to not worry about the politics of pot and approve some amendments that could help both medical marijuana patients and the police,” the News wrote.
“Patients should know exactly where they stand under the law — maybe even feel free to call for a police inspection of their operation without fear of arrest.”