Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard: “This is Michigan, not some Cheech and Chong movie”
“This is Michigan, not some Cheech and Chong movie,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard bragged Thursday at a press conference where he proudly showed off seized items including bagged and candied marijuana he claimed was “worth $750,000,” hash oil, and growing equipment.
Two medical marijuana businesses were raided and 15 people were arrested in Michigan for allegedly making “illegal sales,” according to the sheriff’s department.
Bouchard, a publicity-loving Republican gubernatorial candidate, compared medical marijuana dispensary operators to “organized crime,” and is widely viewed as wanting a test case to curtail the pot shops’ activities.
The raids, during which cancer patients and elderly cardholders were forced to the ground at gunpoint, left many medical marijuana patients confused and angry, report Mike Martindale and Jennifer Chambers of The Detroit News.
“This is a very disturbing story,” said Michael Komorn of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, which has 16,000 members.
“Patients were held at gunpoint and dragged out,” Komorn said. “This law was designed to protect patients and caregivers — not expend our resources arresting patients and caregivers.”
Patients bought medical marijuana strains like AK-47, Durban Poison and Super Silver Haze at Clinical Relief in Ferndale — until Wednesday night, when Sheriff Bouchard came busting in forcing patients to the ground.
Wednesday night’s raids targeted Clinical Relief, a Ferndale dispensary, and Everybody’s Café, a Waterford Township restaurant that runs an after-hours “compassion club” behind closed doors.
Arrests and marijuana seizures also occurred at metro Detroit homes and a Macomb County warehouse, according to officers.
The arrests were made for alleged offenses ranging from possession to sales and distribution of marijuana and include business operators, employees, and even patients with state-issued medical marijuana cards.
All were jailed and expected to be formally charged on Friday.
“This is nothing but harassment,” said Thomas Smith, 28, of Auburn Hills, Mich., a member of the Waterford Area Compassion Club, which met at Everybody’s Café. “These are good people and haven’t done anything illegal.”
Sheriff Bouchard said the café sells memberships for $20 a year, and state-certified patients and caregivers can participate. The club reportedly has about 450 members.
Ironically, Ferndale city officials earlier this week lifted a moratorium on medical marijuana businesses and agreed to allow them in certain zoning areas.
Clinical Relief, which opened in Ferndale in June, sells 20 grades of marijuana ranging up to $700 an ounce, and reportedly has more than 1,000 customers.
During the raid there Wednesday, three people were arrested, including co-owner Matthew Curtis.
“They said we were selling to people who were not patients,” said Ryan Richmond, co-owner of Clinical Relief, as he drove to visit Curtis at the Oakland County Jail.
“That never happened at our store,” Richmond said. “Everyone had state-approved cards.”
“They had patients on the ground,” Richmond said, describing the raid, which happened just after 6 p.m. on Wednesday. “There were cancer patients on the ground, senior citizens on the ground and staff on the ground.”
“They raided all of our partners’ homes while their kids were home,” Richmond said. “They were taking their TVs like we were drug dealers.”
Police took HIPAA-protected documents, all the patient files, and even TVs from the clinic, according to Richmond.
“I am in shock,” Richmond said. “Our clinic is empty now. I heard them say they want a test case. That’s what a detective said at the store.”
Richmond said patients can select medical marijuana grown off-site by certified caregivers. The company also sells edibles: products, including sodas, suckers and baked goods which contain cannabis.
Ferndale Mayor Craig Covey said Clinical Relief, the city’s only medical marijuana dispensary, was in full compliance with local rules.
“We’ve had zero problems — no calls, no noise or traffic complaints,” Mayor Covey said. “We were very surprised,” Covey said of the raid.
“We are begging law enforcement to sit down and talk about the law,” caregiver Komorn said.
“Don’t take it out on the patients,” Komorn said. “Go back to the ballot if you don’t like the law. Don’t take away our democratic process. This is the law.”
Michigan’s medical marijuana law was approved by an overwhelming 63 percent of state voters in 2008.