Corrections officers offered plea deal

Tim Bernhardt (upper left), Mike Frederick (upper right), Todd VanDoorne (lower left), Brian Tennant (lower right), all Kent County Corrections Officers are facing various drug charges (March 21, 2014).

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The four Kent County Sheriff’s Department corrections officers facing felony drug charges were back in a courtroom Wednesday.

Tim Bernhardt, Mike Frederick,Todd VanDoorne and Brian Tennant waived their preliminary exam, sending their case on to circuit court. The corrections officers have been charged for making or having a marijuana product referred to as marijuana butter.

Last month, the sheriff’s department was called to the post office for a report of a suspicious package. In it, they found marijuana butter and linked it to the officers.

The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office has offered each of the men a plea deal. They have been offered one charge of maintaining a drug house if they resign from their jobs, testify against the others if needed and don’t file any motions in circuit court under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.

So far, none of the men have taken the deal.

Documents show that Bernhardt, Frederick and VanDoorne each hold medical marijuana cards. Tennant told authorities his wife has one.

“This is still medical. This is medical use. These were people that were medical patients that are registered with the state,” Bruce Block, attorney for VanDoorne, said.

Block previously told 24 Hour News 8 none of the four men meant to break the law.

It’s a law that Cooley Law Professor Curt Benson says confuses many.

“It is ridiculously confusing. Not just for the average person, but judges struggle with it. I mean, these things come before the court and everyone is waiting to see what the courts are going to do, and nobody knows because the act is so poorly written,” Benson said.

The four men have been charged for making or having marijuana butter, which is made by extracting THC from marijuana. THC is the chemical that causes marijuana’s psychological effects and relieves pain.

“If you instead of using the plant … extract THC from the plant and make into a butter or something, apparently you run afoul with the act,” Benson said.

There is a bill working its way through the legislature that could change that, but it’s not law yet.

“Over time, the courts will settle some of these questions. But again, real people, real citizens are going to get really badly hurt in the process,” Benson said.

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