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Lapeer County Sheriff’s Office says medical marijuana dispensary was giving out too much pot

September 1, 2010

Medical Marijuana
Image by Troy Holden via Flickr

Wednesday, September 01, 2010, 7:00 PM  

DRYDEN, Michigan — Lapeer County authorities have seized nearly 50 marijuana plants from a medical marijuana dispensary in a dispute over how much is too much.

Sheriff’s deputies raided the Compassionate Care Center of Michigan on Dryden’s Main Street about 1 p.m. Tuesday, seizing marijuana plants, scales and $3,500.

Sheriff Ron Kalanquin said the raid came after three medical marijuana patients who do not have medical marijuana caregivers but said they bought marijuana from the dispensary.

Police also searched six workers and six patients during the raid but made no arrests.

The owner of the dispensary said no laws have been broken.

Compassionate Care owner Randy Crowel said the center has a couple hundred caregivers in its co-op and said all of the workers at the center are both marijuana patients and caregivers.

“I’m confused now more than ever,” said Crowel.

Lapeer County Prosecutor Byron Konschuh said the county has been in a disagreement with the dispensary owners since it opened in April over interpretations of the state’s medical marijuana law.

The county maintains that the dispensary can only provide marijuana to five patients for each of its caregivers but believes the center has been exceeding that amount.

“We’ve been working with (Crowel) and his attorneys on the interpretation of what a dispensary can and can not do,” said Konschuh, who is awaiting police reports on the raid. “And apparently we have a fundamental disagreement.”

Kalanquin said interpreting and following the 2-year-old medical marijuana law is an “evolving process,” for police and said his department had received a number of tips about the dispensary.

An undercover sheriff’s deputy claimed he went into the center to buy marijuana Friday and was told all he needed was a copy of a cashed check showing that he had applied for a permit to buy medical marijuana, according to the search warrant.

The warrant claims that someone with a medical marijuana card who sells marijuana to another medical marijuana cardholder is in violation of a felony.

The warrant also claims that Dryden Township Police Chief Larry Peck told a sheriff’s investigator that Crowel said at a meeting that the center was not selling marijuana to “just anyone that has a medical marijuana card.”

A Dryden Township officer told sheriff’s investigators that he estimated that about 100 cars had “come and went” from the center during a recent 8-hour period, according to the warrant.

“We are just fact finders,” said Kalanquin. “We are just looking for the truth.”

Jim Rasor, a Royal Oak attorney who represents Crowel, said called the raid unlawful and said he believes Lapeer County officials are using it to show problems with Michigan’s medical marijuana law.

The law is vague about how medical marijuana patients receive their medication, especially in regard to patient-to-patient sales, said Rasor, adding the law does not explicitly limit patient-to-patient sales to five patients per caregiver.

“It seems like the prosecution and sheriffs are using these laws to point out the shortcomings of the law,” Rasor said. “It’s not up to the sheriffs or prosecutors to rewrite or change the law.”

Added Rasor, “I think they are going to end up costing the citizens of this county a great deal of money.”

Kalanquin said the Dryden medical marijuana caregivers will be given their property if they are exonerated.

Jeremy Rupinski, the co-founder and director of the Genesee County Compassion Club said he didn’t think the Lapeer County medical marijuana dispensary should have been raided.

“I don’t understand why law enforcement is going after these places that are providing a health service and helping the economy,” said Jeremy Rupinski, who has been following the case and doesn’t believe the center did anything wrong.

“The law is pretty clear,” he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union declined to comment on this case, citing the high number of raids recently.

The most recent uproar is in Oakland County where three clinics were raided late last month and 16 people were arrested for non-compliance of the 2008 law.

A Saginaw County home of a 49-year-old resident who was a patient and caregiver was raided by federal drug enforcement agents in July.

There’s been calls by people on both sides of the debate to clarify the law, but bills in Lansing have stalled thus far.

Rupinski said the current feuds aren’t helping anything in resolving issues.

“It’s unfortunate that these arrests are happening,” he said. “There are better ways to handle this than arresting people.”

Dryden resident Rochelle King believes the law should be clarified.

“It seems like the law needs to be clearer and that it seems like they try to follow the law, but if they’re doing something wrong than police had a right to go there,” said King.

Staff writer David Harris contributed to this report.

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