Kent County medical marijuana dispensary raids spark outrage

Plainfield Avenue medical marijuana dispensary
A medical marijuana dispensary located at 4920 Plainfield Avenue that was shuttered after a search by authorities. (Nov. 29, 2016)


PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Authorities say the three Kent County medical marijuana dispensaries they raided Monday repeatedly failed to follow state law.

The Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team says it executed search warrants at three Plainfield Township dispensaries, including the Relief Hub, Third Day and Red Jasper dispensaries. The investigation also took K.A.N.E.T. to the 5400 block of Pine Island Drive NE in Plainfield Township, the 5000 block of Circle Drive NE in Cannon Township and two Grand Rapids locations in the 2100 block of Wyndham Hill Drive NE and the 1200 block of Taylor Avenue NW.

Tuesday, the lights were out and the doors were locked at all three dispensaries.

‘IT’S JUST UNFORTUNATE’

The raid means profit losses for the business owners and that patients will have to find somewhere else to go.

“They are very knowledgeable here with what helps with what different pains,” said medical marijuana patient Alyssa Gale of the now closed Third Day dispensary on Plainfield Avenue NE.

Gale said she’s battling leukemia for four years.  She was scheduled to start another round of chemotherapy the day she found Third Day closed.

“I’m actually kind of upset because I don’t have a caregiver. They take care of me here, so now I’m going to have to figure something out for my pain because I don’t like to take pain pills,” said Gale.

In the 20 minutes 24 Hour News 8 was outside Third Day, half a dozen people pulled up to the store and left after learning it was closed.

“It’s just unfortunate. We’ve got a lot of cancer patients and stuff that are really benefiting from this program and now they have to drive to Lansing and other places. A lot of tears shed today,” said dispensary volunteer Forrest Powell.

Supporters of Third Day and Provision Center dispensaries are planning an event on Facebook to protest the raids at Plainfield Township Hall Friday, beginning at 3 p.m.

WHAT ARE THE RULES?

Medicinal marijuana dispensaries are illegal in Michigan.

Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Chris Becker says  the law only allows someone who has a medical marijuana card to get medical marijuana prescribed by their doctor or a caregiver with an established relationship.

“The problem is with growing your own and having someone grow for you, your marijuana isn’t ready for three, four months. If you are a cancer patient, you may be dead by then,” said Republican Rep. Mike Callton of Nashville, who sponsored bills to clarify Michigan’s medical marijuana system.

Another legal challenge: caregivers can only grow a certain amount of plants, limiting how much they can dispense.

Whether the laws are enforced depends on township, city or village.

“The whole period of time has been court rulings, and court decisions and getting interpretations. Because (of that) it has been kind of a confusing mess,” Becker said.

In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Plainfield Township Superintendent Cameron Van Wyngarden said dispensaries have never been legal in his township.

“Medical marijuana dispensaries are – and always have been – illegal in Plainfield Township. Monday’s raid by the Kent County Sheriff Department and the Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team closed several known illegal drug operations in the County, including some in Plainfield Township.

It’s unfortunate that we have seen so much misinformation making the rounds on social media within the last 24 hours. The County made the decision to conduct the raids, not the Township. The Township has not “suddenly” changed its mind to ban dispensaries. Dispensaries have never been legal in Plainfield Township, and those that were operating did so in full knowledge that their actions were unlawful.”

Kent County said in a news release Tuesday that all seven sites they raided involved people who were previously investigated and failed to comply to written and verbal warnings that they were operating illegally under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. After receiving several tips from the public that marijuana was being illegally sold at the sites, undercover officers purchased marijuana from the locations before they were raided.

“They came in and everybody had to stop what they were doing,” said Powell.

WHAT’S NEXT

The legalization of Michigan dispensaries is only a matter of time.

“All I can tell you right now is dispensaries are illegal and will be until next year.  Even then, don’t just go selling them (medical marijuana) because you have to go through the state to do it,” explained Becker.

In September, Gov. Rick Snyder signed new medical marijuana regulations into law. The laws impose a new tax on dispensary shops and establish a state licensing system to grow, process, sell, transport or test marijuana. Non-smokable forms of the drug such as lotions and tinctures will become legal. A monitoring system will track marijuana from “seed to sale.”

Municipalities will still have the power to regulate the location and number of marijuana businesses in their jurisdiction.

“It will create a legit industry in the state,” said Callton. “Right now it’s been kind of the wild, wild West, where people just seem to open stuff that’s against the law and then they kind of dare their municipality to close them.”

Callton is not only a lawmaker, but a chiropractor. He thinks this new framework just makes sense.

“What other medicine do you get a prescription for and they tell you to grow it yourself,” added Callton.

While those measures take effect late next month, dispensaries will have to wait until late 2017 to apply for a state operating license.

Reporter Sarah Hurwitz contributed to this report.

 

***CORRECTION: An earlier story posted incorrectly identified all seven search locations as dispensaries; only three of the sites are. We apologize for this error, which has since been corrected.