Lawsuit threat leveled as Holland Township has first reading of its medical marijuana rules
Monica Bakker, a representative of a local medical marijuana dispensary, accused the seven-member board of staying behind after the adjournment of its March 3 meeting to discuss and give instructions on a ordinance being prepared by the township Planning Commission.
“You violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act and broke the law and we intend to sue the township if this passes. We do not want to do that,” said Bakker, community outreach director of Patient Solutions 421, which currently operates a dispensary in the township.
Township Supervisor Terry Nienhuis denied the board violated Open Meetings Act.
“It didn’t occur. It’s an incorrect statement,” Nienhuis said, declining to comment further on the accusation.
Township planners approved an ordinance requiring the licensing of the premise used for the growing and dispensing of medical marijuana. Only the address of the facility will be needed for the license, not the name of the caregiver.
The proposed ordinance does not permit dispensaries, or require the names and addresses of patients.
“We feel the intent of the state law is for individual caregivers to provide medical marijuana. We don’t want to see a lot of storefronts (for distribution) that could multiply,” Nienhuis said.
Joe Cain, CEO of Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, called the ordinance “unconstitutional and illegal” and said he would also sue the board on behalf of patients if it is approved.
“Only the Michigan Legislature with a three-quarters majority can change the (medical marijuana) act, not this board,” said Cain, calling the collection of addresses for caregivers the same as requiring names.
The board has the medical marijuana ordinance on its May 19 agenda for a second reading and consideration.
Robert Snell and Mike Martindale /
The Detroit News
Federal drug agents have raided the home of and a medical marijuana dispensary owned by controversial businessman Romel Casab, who also owns the long-shuttered Packard Motor Car Co. plant.
A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official confirmed agents executed search warrants today at Casab's home along Benstein Road in Commerce Township and his CareGivers of America marijuana dispensary on 12 Mile in Novi.
The two raids were part of a broader DEA operation targeting at least four other locations in Walled Lake and Detroit, The Detroit News has learned.
The DEA raided a second CareGivers dispensary along Decker Road in Walled Lake. The building is owned by 1020 Decker LLC, a company headed by Casab lawyer Barry A. Steinway of Bingham Farms, according to state business records.
Also raided today: the Bayside Sports Grille on East Walled Lake Drive in Walled Lake and Coliseum Bar & Grill strip club on Eight Mile in Detroit.
The Walled Lake sports bar and Detroit strip club are owned by Walled Lake businessman Johni Semma, whose home overlooking Walled Lake also was raided by agents today. Agents hauled away his 2001 Harley Davidson today from the Novi marijuana facility owned by Casab, along with a Ferrari sports car and 1928 Studebaker.
Casab made headlines last fall when he sued a local art gallery that removed a mural at the plant reportedly painted by famed graffiti artist Banksy.
Casab, a land speculator with varied business interests, is listed on state business records as resident agent of CareGivers of America LLC, which is based in an office on 12 Mile in Novi. He formed the company in November 2009.
The search warrants are sealed in U.S. District Court in Detroit and DEA group supervisor Andrew Eiseman declined comment about what prompted the raids or what items were being seized by agents. He also declined comment about whether the raids are part of a broader crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries.
"I can't comment on anything," he said. "It's an ongoing investigation."
Casab could not be reached for comment today.
Along with CareGivers, Casab is president of Bioresource Inc., which sued art gallery 555 Nonprofit Studio and Gallery. After Bioresource sued to reclaim the graffiti mural, Detroit officials threatened to demolish the Packard plant and bill Casab.
The 100-year-old plant is one of Detroit's most notorious symbols of decline and despair.
Its ownership has been disputed in court for years.
Casab has drawn federal scrutiny before.
As recently as July 2004, the FBI was investigating complaints that Metro Detroit's suburban bus system had repeatedly overpaid one of Casab's companies.
Employees claimed that the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) overpaid the International Bus Center in New Haven, which is owned by Casab.
The Walled Lake search started after 7 a.m. today, agents said.
In Novi, police still were at a CareGivers facility on West 12 Mile, west of Novi Road about 11:40 a.m. today. Several large trucks were at the facility, backed up to large bays. The site is in an isolated area.
The facility's building had no signs or banners to announce it was open for business.
Police at the scene in Novi declined comment. A CareGivers employee also declined comment.
The raids come eight months after seven people were arrested in a medical marijuana crackdown in Waterford Township. The seven were arraigned Thursday in Oakland County Circuit Court.
Under state law, people who have obtained physician approval and state-issued cards are permitted to possess and use marijuana.
Licensed caregivers are permitted to grow up to 12 plants in controlled situations and sell marijuana to up to five patients.
Always great to see the war on everything being channeled through the war on marijuana. UA
Inquiries on how to cultivate the plant have increased slightly in the past few years, Michigan State University Extension experts say.
MSU-E, which is mainly involved in more traditional agricultural endeavors, is a resource for some medical marijuana suppliers who want accurate information on how to grow the plants effectively.
Having received about seven calls since medical marijuana became legal in Michigan, MSU-E senior educator Thomas Dudek said he tries to relay basic information on plant physiology to first-time growers.
“People need to have a fairly good knowledge of fertilizer, irrigation and growing media,” said Dudek, a horticulture and marketing expert based in Ottawa County.
He takes existing information about growing other indoor plants and adapts it to the situation when answering such calls.
“Obviously, we’re a land grant university that creates knowledge for people in businesses. If we have a business for growing plants, then you tend to look at MSU as a resource for that type of information,” he said.
Jeanne Himmelein, an Extension educator based in Kalamazoo, works with state greenhouses and nurseries on production and environmental quality. She said she has received only five marijuana-related calls in the past two years.
“The people that call me are very educated in regards to growing this. They are not hobbyists. They are licensed to produce their own medical marijuana. Strictly the calls I get are production issues, from people who are licensed growers,” she said.
Both Holland and Holland Township are working on ordinances to ban medical marijuana dispensaries or co-ops. Douglas is working on language to regulate such businesses.
The primary questions that concern Himmelein’s callers are about insect and disease control. For answers, she directs them to biological control suppliers.
“If this is a business and a medical thing, I am comfortable with giving them as much information as possible on insect control and nutritional advice,” she said. “I just want them to do it the safest way.
“I’m impressed with the people asking about insect and disease control instead of going to a local nursery and grabbing something off the shelf,” she said.
An upcoming bulletin from MSU-E, “Growing Indoor Plants,” will educate readers on techniques for keeping house plants, such as optimal light conditions and basics of nutrition.
The bulletin, Himmelein said, will not specifically be for medical marijuana growers but “would be a decent guide for anyone growing any type of indoor plant.”
That procedure is more open than the one Colorado State University Extension employs. It prohibits staff and volunteers from providing any advice or assistance about marijuana cultivation, although medical marijuana is legal in Colorado.
Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, a critic of marijuana legalization, said he has no problem with MSU-E providing advice, but would like it also to provide information on the possible hazards from mold and chemicals.
“They should be giving advice on dangers. Many growers in this new agricultural industry see dollar signs, but don’t realize it is a product for patients with damaged immune systems,” he said.
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said many entrepreneurs starting medical marijuana businesses are senior citizens going into retirement.
That’s true in Michigan, said Michigan NORML Executive Director Steve Thompson, who is based in Eastpointe.
He said today’s retirees grew up in the 1960s and 1970s and many of these entrepreneurs have had experience with cannabis.
“A lot of senior citizens are like myself — they’re hippies. We started this so it’s time we finish it,” he said.
Ann Arbor’s medical marijuana regulations headed to council for final approval just in time for 4/20
Ann Arbor's medical marijuana regulations would limit the number of dispensaries inside the city limits to no more than 20, at least for the first year.
Ryan J. Stanton
After more than three months of deliberations, the Ann Arbor City Council voted for the first time Monday night to move a proposed medical marijuana licensing ordinance past first reading.
The vote came unanimously after some final tweaking of the ordinance, which regulates dispensaries and cultivation facilities within the city limits.
The ordinance now moves on for final approval on April 19, which is a Tuesday — a deviation from the council's normal Monday meeting night. A proposed medical marijuana zoning ordinance also is expected to come back for final approval the same night.
It wasn't planned, but the expected final approval comes just in time for 4/20, a sort of countercultural cannabis holiday when marijuana advocates throughout the country light up in celebration and, in some places, participate in events advocating for decriminalization of pot.
The City Council took action Monday night to extend the city's moratorium on medical marijuana businesses through June 30, giving the council some leeway on making a final decision if it should need it. The moratorium has been in place since last August.
City officials estimate there are about 15 to 18 dispensaries in Ann Arbor. They think there could be a few that won't be allowed at their current locations under the zoning ordinance.
The licensing ordinance would have the city doling out a limited number of dispensary and cultivation facility licenses once the moratorium is lifted.
Operations that were up and running prior to the moratorium last August would have up to 60 days after the ordinance takes effect to submit an application for an annual license. No other applications would be accepted until 75 days after the ordinance takes effect.
The first year’s licenses would be capped at a number 10 percent higher than the licenses applied for in the first 60 days, but not more than 20 dispensaries and 10 cultivation facility licenses. So, if there really are 15 to 18 dispensaries in Ann Arbor, and all of them seek licenses, no more than two additional licenses would be available to new dispensaries.
Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, led the way Monday night as the council worked through a number of amendments to the licensing ordinance. Briere dropped her request for the city to adopt a non-disclosure policy on patient and caregiver information, noting that the reworked licensing ordinance doesn't involve the city collecting any personal information.
After some tweaking, the ordinance now states that a cultivation facility or dispensary must keep records of the caregivers from whom they receive marijuana in any form and must make the records available to the city upon request to promote health, safety or welfare or to otherwise verify compliance with the licensing ordinance.
Required labeling information, including coded patient and caregiver information, also must be kept and made available for inspection. Marijuana package labels must include the following:
- A unique alphanumeric identifier for the person to whom it is being delivered.
- A unique alphanumeric identifier for the cultivation source of the marijuana.
- Notice that the package contains marijuana.
- The date of delivery, weight, type of marijuana and dollar amount or other consideration being exchanged in the transaction.
- A certification that all marijuana in any form contained in the package was cultivated, manufactured and packaged in the state of Michigan.
- The name, address, email address and phone number of an authorized representative of the dispensary whom a patient can contact with any questions.
- The name, address, email address and phone number of at least one governmental or nonprofit organization that may be contacted by a patient who has concerns about substance abuse of drugs, including marijuana.
- A warning stating that the product is manufactured without any regulatory oversight for health or safety, and that there may be health risks associated with its use.
The council also tweaked the ordinance to state that license applicants must install signs in a visible location with the following statement in letters no less than an inch tall:
"The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act acknowledges that 'although federal law currently prohibits any use of marihuana except under very limited circumstances, states are not required to enforce federal law or prosecute people for engaging in activities prohibited by federal law. The laws of Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island and Washington do not penalize the medical use and cultivation of marihuana. Michigan joins in this effort for the health and wellness of its citizens.' See MCL 333.26422(c). If you have any questions or concerns please consult with your attorney."
The council voted in favor of an amendment proposed by Council Member Sandi Smith, D-1st Ward, to state that caregivers growing marijuana inside their own homes do not need licenses but may voluntarily register with the city by providing their home address.
"I don't know if anybody will choose to volunteer that information," Smith said, though she noted it could help make sure legitimate caregivers' homes aren't raided. "To avoid that, you could register. The police would know this was a caregiver's house."
The council also clarified duties of the proposed medical marijuana licensing board, which would be created through the ordinance. The licensing board would consist of one council member, one physician and three other Ann Arbor residents — all of whom would be appointed by the mayor. The board would review annually and recommend the licensing criteria, number of licenses, license fee structure, and approval of license applications.
"The board that you've established may want to look at the records to identify where this product is coming from," City Attorney Stephen Postema told council members, adding that could be to confirm that the marijuana is from Michigan or to investigate health complaints.
A bill in the Michigan Senate would ban marijuana bars and clubs that have opened since voters approved use of the drug for medical purposes in 2008.
The Republican-led Senate Health Policy Committee passed the bill Thursday. The legislation advances to the Senate floor.
The bill defines the clubs and bars as places where medical marijuana is used for a fee. Violations would be punishable by up to 90 days in jail with fines of up to $500.
Republican Sen. Rick Jones of Grand Ledge sponsors the bill and says people using medical marijuana shouldn't be driving right after they use it.
Marijuana club owners say they provide a key service. There are pending court cases involving clubs that could set precedents for how they're allowed to operate.
Thought from the editor: In this country, if you want to work, potential employees have to pass a drug test, but if you want to collect welfare, unemployment or housing assistance, just sign on up....WTF?!.....
Wal-Mart employee fired for medical pot loses case
Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:51pm EST
Reporting by Clare Baldwin, additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Ron Popeski)
* Wal-Mart justified in firing employee for positive test
(Reuters) - A federal judge in Michigan on Friday upheld Wal-Mart Stores Inc's dismissal of an employee for testing positive for marijuana, even though he was using the drug under the state's medical marijuana law.
Judge Robert Jonker wrote that while the state law was meant to provide some limited protection for medical marijuana users from state arrest and prosecution, it does not regulate private employers.
Former Wal-Mart employee Joseph Casias said he was using the marijuana to treat pain from an inoperable brain tumor and sinus cancer, and was doing so legally, with a medical marijuana registry card.
After twisting his knee at work, Casias submitted to a drug test, administered under a Wal-Mart policy requiring tests for all employees injured on the job. When he tested positive, he was fired.
Casias worked at a Wal-Mart store in Battle Creek, Michigan from 2004 to 2009. (Reporting by Clare Baldwin, additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Ron Popeski)
Marilisa Kinney Sachteleben
– Wed Dec 8, 5:43 pm ETSince the November 2010 midterm elections, several cities have issued bans on growing, producing and selling medical marijuana. Michigan voters passed the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act in 2008.
Wyoming, Mich., banned medical pot. Lansing, Mich., issued a six-month moratorium. According to the Michigan Messenger, Lansing's city council voted to suspend medical marijuana activities in the city for six months until it can "put workable rules in place." This decision came despite Mayor Virg Bernero's opposition. Bernero, who ran on the Democratic ticket against Gov.-elect Rick Snyder in the 2010 midterm elections, said the measure "thwarts the intent of the voters."
In Wyoming, Mich., a local Grand Rapids community, the city council voted this week to ban the use of medical marijuana within the Wyoming city limits, states the Detroit News. Wyoming joins the Detroit local communities of Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham and Livonia in enacting this ban. Local Wyoming marijuana activists, including attorney John Ter Beek have called upon the ACLU for help to overturn the ban.
Bans on medical marijuana have come about primarily because of issues in policing pot growers, production facilities and dispensaries. Many local cities and townships have struggled to hammer out parameters around medical marijuana distribution.
Several communities, including Ferndale, Mich., have levied stiffer annual licensing fees for medical pot clinics. These new medical marijuana bans take the issue one step further, however. Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Livonia, Lansing and Wyoming have banned the use of medical marijuana within city limits. Doctors who prescribe medical marijuana legally under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act are now engaging in illegal activities. People who rely on medical marijuana for the treatment of extremely painful conditions are now criminals. Patients who find pain relief from pain with medical marijuana must now go outside city limits to obtain it.
The contention that marijuana is dangerous and may fall into the wrong hands is countered by the argument that most drugs can and do and no drug should fall into the wrong hands. Over-the-counter or prescription, every thing from vitamins to Sudafed to Pepto-Bismol to Adderall to Dilaudid can and does fall into the wrong hands.
Even herbs, homeopathics and vitamins should not be taken by children without adult approval. Self-medication and sharing medications, even prescriptions, are not closely monitored. Once a person obtains a prescription or buys an over the counter medication, there is no way of knowing what happens to it.
Adderall and Ritalin (prescribed for Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder) are sold on the street as amphetamines and sometimes snorted to produce the same effects a cocaine, says the Vanderbilt University student newspaper Inside Vandy. Education World describes scenarios in which schools are easy targets for prescription drug thieves. In schools, it is illegal to give any student, even those over 18, a Tylenol capsule for a headache without express consent of the parents. Yet we enact only very cursory, if any, controls over other medications.
The biggest legal issue with medical marijuana bans, according to the ACLU and other voter rights activists is that the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act was approved in referendum by all 83 counties in 2008, over two years ago. Whether any city council can constitutionally overturn voter passed legislation remains to be seen.