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The difficulty with dispensaries

By Adam Rubenfire, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 29, 2011

Chuck Ream was not happy when the Michigan State Police’s Livingston and Washtenaw Narcotics Enforcement Team raided his Arborside medical marijuana dispensary on Aug. 25.

“They’ve come into our dispensary … and taken — stolen — all of our medicine, all of our records,” said Ream, who was president of the dispensary, located on 1818 Packard Street.

The raid came one day after a state appellate court in Isabella County ruled that dispensaries are not authorized to sell marijuana under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which voters passed in 2008. Lt. Jerry Cooley, a spokesman for LAWNET, denied that the raids were connected to the appellate court’s ruling, saying that the raids were related to “previous investigations” of dispensaries in Ann Arbor.

Some dispensaries in the city shut down for a brief period after the court’s ruling. Since the raid on Arborside, new owners have taken over the dispensary, which was previously called MedMar.

“The last owner was wiped out by a theft. A raid by masked gunmen wiped him out,” Ream said. “He is a family man, with a wife and kids, and he has been really hurt by these outrageous attacks.”

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State Attorney General Bill Schuette supported the Isabella County prosecutors, and he released a statement following the ruling that said his office would assist other municipalities in shutting down dispensaries in their area.

Ream criticized Schuette for his actions regarding the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, calling his role in enforcing and implementing the act an “atrocity.”

“His goal is to defeat the voters,” Ream said. “He has no respect for the voters, no respect for medical cannabis, and even though the voters voted 63 percent for it, it makes no difference to him.”

Several interview requests for this article were not returned by Schuette’s office.

Ream said that Schuette wants the state’s medical marijuana act to be “invalidated as unconstitutional.”

“If you don’t have dispensaries, you can’t have the range of products to take care of the needs of (medical marijuana) patients that are out there,” Ream said. “Schuette is supposed to enforce and implement the law, and in this case, he is trying to destroy (it).”

Ann Arbor City Council member Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) recently attended a seminar led by Schuette that was intended to educate law enforcement agencies and local government officials on how to implement and enforce the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. However, she said the seminar didn’t serve its purpose.

“The presentation I went to didn’t deal with implementation at all,” Briere said. “(It) didn’t provide information to me that would help with understanding the impact of the medical marijuana act on local governments.”

She said the session focused on how to deal with citizens who were not abiding by the terms of the medical marijuana act.

When asked whether she thought Schuette had the best interests of Michigan citizens in mind, Briere said that was a question for the attorney general himself.

“I think he thinks he does,” Briere said. “People can only act on what they believe to be right.”

Briere noted that Schuette is advising municipal prosecutors and law enforcement agencies with a legal opinion that may be inconclusive.

“At this point, prosecutors and the attorney general are all interpreting the court’s decisions in the most broad, rather than most narrow, way possible,” Briere said.

She said she thinks it's an issue that officials interpret the court ruling to deem the sale of medical marijuana illegal. According to section 4 (e) of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, registered caregivers “may receive compensation for costs associated with assisting a registered qualifying patient in the medical use of marijuana.”

This section of the law gave prospective dispensary owners enough leeway to open their businesses after the act was passed.