We told you last week about a Michigan prison cop who died prior to being sentenced for his role in a medical marijuana brownie sting. It turns out that 49-year-old Tim Bernhardt committed suicide, rather than face the felony charges of maintaining a drug house – charges he saw for simply being a medical marijuana patient and making some brownies. Bernhardt was facing up to two years in jail and $25,000 in fines.
According to Michigan law, concentrated forms of marijuana are illegal even for medical cannabis users – that includes infused butter, arguably the most common way to make pot edibles. The court has upheld that ruling as recently as July of 2013 – despite overwhelming evidence that it’s an absurd qualification. The judge based the ruling on the language of the state medical marijuana law, which defines marijuana as the “the dried leaves and flowers of the marihuana plant, and any mixture or preparation thereof.”
Basically, if they had been making pot by baking the raw leaves and buds in the brownies, they would have been legal. But by making butter with it and making it m
Bernhardt and several others were busted earlier this year after two associates, Tim and Alyssa Scherzer, were caught getting pot in the mail via the US Postal Service. The two were open about what they were doing, and admitted getting butter to their patients, including Bernhardt. During their trials, they were all forthright with the judge and explained that they thought they were within the scope of the law.
Hell, even the Sheriff in charge of the investigation didn’t believe they were doing anything other than using the brownies for themselves.
“We never had any suspicions of trafficking by these four officers or any of these people involved,” Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma tells reporters.
Even worse? The law is likely going to be changed. The state House voted 100 to 9 to include marijuana butter and concentrates on the last day of the session last year, meaning the Senate didn’t have time to take it up – the bill hasn’t advanced yet, but could be moved forward when the new session begins.
But in the end, none of that mattered. Neither did ruining the lives of the people involved, even though they weren’t doing anything but consuming personal amounts of cannabis in a form widely recognized as one of the safest and most effective means of distribution possible. Instead, we’re left with another death attributed to the war on marijuana.
“Tim was the most honorable man I ever met in my life,” Bernhardt’s wife, Jody wrote last week. “He was a private man … but always encouraged me to persu(e) my dreams.”
Russ Belville has an excellent take on this absurdity as well over at HuffPo.