Crackdown Gets Tighter on Medical Marijuana in Michigan

Authorities from Lansing to Oakland County further tightened their grip this week on those they said abused Michigan’s medical-marijuana law over the protests of those who use and distribute the drug for health purposes.

A state Appeals Court decision Tuesday — the second such ruling in a week against medical-marijuana users — upheld the conviction of a man arrested for possession of marijuana after he obtained a state card as an approved user. But the man, who lives in Montmorency County east of Gaylord, had been growing marijuana before he got the card, according to evidence in the case.

In Oak Park, four people from a major medical-marijuana operation were arraigned Wednesday on drug possession and conspiracy charges. The arrests of two principals from Big Daddy’s Management Group and two of their caregivers — those who are approved by the state to supply marijuana to patients — came eight months after a January raid by the Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Team of the Big Daddy’s complex.

The operation has a compassion club, where approved patients meet to discuss their health concerns; rows of safes where caregivers keep their marijuana, and a warehouse that supplies shops selling indoor-cultivation equipment in Burton, Chesterfield Township, Detroit and Livonia, employees said.

“What kills me — one county and one city will write us right into their ordinances to let us do what we do, and here in Oakland County they’re running us out,” Big Daddy’s owner Rick Ferris said.

Oak Park police said they were acting on orders from county authorities. Oakland County law-enforcement officials could not be reached Wednesday.

“It’s our understanding that this results from county undercover officers using forged (state user) cards to get inside Big Daddy’s” before the January raid, Big Daddy’s attorney Jim Rasor said.

Ferris, 46, of Harrison Township turned himself in at the Oak Park police station, along with three others — his daughter and Big Daddy’s employee Stefani Ferris, 26, of Hazel Park; and caregivers Dan Stafford, 28, of Clawson and Andrey Douthard, 25, of Romulus.

In the January raid, officers seized $2,500 in cash, 37 ounces of “usable medicine” and medical-marijuana equipment, Rick Ferris said Wednesday before he surrendered to police.

The four were charged in Oak Park District Court with manufacture and possession of marijuana and with conspiracy, their attorneys Rasor and Paul Tylenda said. All four pleaded not guilty, with two released on bond and the other two expected to be released today, their attorneys said.

“We have now completely shut down the Oak Park operation” but plan to reopen today “just for physician referral and networking help for patients,” Big Daddy’s spokesman Rick Thompson said after the arraignments.

In the Montmorency County case, the appeals court upheld a circuit court decision against Brian Reed, who had chronic back problems. He was spotted growing marijuana in August 2009 by police. That month, he got a doctor’s approval and received a user’s card in October.

Ten days after he got his card, he was arrested for growing the marijuana. Reed argued the charges should be dismissed because he had become a registered user.

But without the card at the time of the alleged crime, there is no immunity, the court said.

Last week, the state appeals court outlawed retail sales at marijuana dispensaries.