Since last Fall when The Review published a series of articles entitled Integrity Lost that provided a detailed chronology of Attorney General Bill Schuette and his single-handed attempt to repeal Michigan's Medical Marijuana Law, the hypocrisy, misinformation, and his latest activist campaign to purportedly 'educate' Law Enforcement units throughout the State has reached decidedly frightening proportions.
On Tuesday, Nov. 29th, Schuette presented one of several traveling 'seminars' at Saginaw's Horizon's Center entitled Clearing the Air: Implementing Michigan's Medical Marijuana Act - A Seminar for Law Enforcement Professionals & Local Government Officials.
Conducted with taxpayer money, attendance at the seminar was 'by request' only to the Attorney General's office, and no media throughout the state were allowed to attend. Nor were any of the thousands of Michigan patients, caregivers, and advocates that the law was intended to help.
I was told this did not violate the Open Meetings Act because it was not a 'regular' public meeting but rather an informational seminar. But if that is the case and this in essence was a 'private function', then isn't Schuette now misappropriating public resources for his own personal agenda? And did all the local law enforcement in attendance do so on their own dime? It would seem that if it's a public affair, it should be open to both the public & media; and either one is being harmed by being refused entry.
But despite the fact that the AG office declined the Review's request for admittance to the Seminar, we have obtained a full copy of the topics and handouts presented, which you can read in full on our online edition at www.review-mag.com.
Make no mistake, as the title itself is total double-speak - there was little covered about implementation and the entire focus centered upon enforcement.
Reading Between the Lines:
Solidification of the Radical Minority & Rise of the Police State
Over the past 30 years taxpayers have spent over $1 trillion on the War on Drugs and the reality is that with community infrastructures crumbling and our economy in shambles, people in Michigan are sick of wasting resources that would better to dedicated to their schools, health care system, and more pressing and obvious needs.
Given that 70 to 90 percent of the caseloads in our courts center around policies fed by Drug Prohibition, most people are sick of squandering resources on a losing battle that only benefits the participants of the law enforcement & legal system that are benefited and enriched by it.
Indeed, in this November's election, voters in Kalamazoo sent a powerful message to legislators by overwhelmingly approving an amendment to their city charter making enforcement of pot possession the city's lowest law enforcement priority, with 4646 voters saying yes, and 2416 saying no. Despite an under-funded campaign in an off-year election, the measure passed with a nearly 2:1 margin.
When the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) was adopted by voters in 2008 by a margin of 63%-37%, it was by a larger margin than Schuette enjoyed in his own victory (53%-42%) two years later.
At the recent law enforcement seminar roadshow, Celeste Clarkson, compliance section manager for the State Department of Licensing on MMMA cards, even attempted to rewrite this reality by asserting the Act passed only because of a low turnout in the 2006 Governor's race.
She coupled that with the 2008 initiative being on the same ballot as the presidential election. There were 3,801,256 ballots cast for governor in 2006 and 4,993,499 for president in 2008. But a simple look backward shows there were only 3,175,667 ballots cast in 2002, meaning more ballots were cast in 2006 than 2002 by over 600,000, making Clarkson's assertion false.
As it stands right now, the enemies of the MMMA in the State Legislature cannot muster the ¾ majority needed to repeal the law or even agree on most of the revisionist bills already in the hopper, which means that Schuette is seeking more secretive and diabolical ways to repeal it - namely, developing any pretext for ignoring, circumventing, or violating the state law that he can find.
In essence, Schuette is targeting precisely the people Michigan voters sought to protect from criminal prosecution when they adopted the MMA. One of his methods was to issue a legal opinion that police have a legal obligation not to return marijuana seized from licensed patients because possession of pot is still prohibited under federal law.
While President Obama has not issued an Executive Order giving full faith & credit to the states that have adopted MMA initiatives, the U.S. Justice Department has repeatedly made clear its lack of interest in prosecuting patients in Michigan and other states that have authorized medical marijuana.
“The people of this state, even in the exercise of their constitutional right to initiate legislation, cannot require law enforcement to violate federal law by mandating the return of marijuana to registered patients or caregivers,” his opinion stated.
Schuette cited a 2010 Oregon Supreme Court ruling in favor of an employer who refused to hire a medical marijuana patient. The court agreed with the employer's reason -- using medical marijuana violates federal law.
California, the first state to legalize medical marijuana through a 1996 referendum, has the most court experience with the law. One case directly relates to Schuette's opinion.
Felix Kha, a Garden Grove, Calif., resident and a medical marijuana patient suffering from chronic pain, sued the city for the return of a small quantity of the drug police seized in a June 2005 traffic stop. Although an Orange County judge ordered police to return the marijuana, Garden Grove appealed the decision.
The case eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2008. The justices refused to hear it. Kha got his marijuana back, and the California law's provision was upheld.
Michigan's medical marijuana law is undoubtedly embattled.
The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in August that dispensaries in which patients sell marijuana to other patients cannot operate, so Schuette's opinion strikes another blow against the law's intent: providing relief to registered medical marijuana users, a goal a majority of Michigan voters supported three years ago.
Indeed, when it comes to Attorney General Opinions, a look at Schuette's track record thus far is also telling. Recently the Lansing State Journal reported how former Attorney General Mike Cox averaged 17 opinions per year during his 8-year run in the office. Jennifer Granholm issued 25 in her final year, but this was nothing compared to Frank Kelly, who managed to rack up more than 200 opinions published in 1980.
In his first year since taking office, Bill Schuette has answered only five questions in the form of opinions, sixty-percent of which are on the subject of the MMA. Opinion 7529 prohibited the collective growing of plants and was issued June 28th; Sept. 16 brought an opinion that allowed businesses, landlords and others to ban smoking or growing cannabis within their property; and on Nov. 10th he issued Opinion 7262 stating federal law dictates any cannabis seized by law enforcement can never be returned to the rightful owner regardless of circumstance.
Not only does Schuette have the lowest number of opinions in any calendar year since 1963, but he's also proven to be the laziest filer, with this first effort carrying a May 6, 2011 stamp.
Instead he's been busy eliminating over 500 small, family run businesses across Michigan and the Treasury is returning 40 checks to prospective medical marijuana business owners who are ready, willing, and able to fill vacant buildings and erase blight from storefronts & properties.
Of course, Schuette's belief in the primacy and superiority of federal law is entirely situational. When the federal law in question is one he opposes - such as the American Health Care Act of 2009 or EPA rules designed to limit air pollution - he's on the front line of Republican Attorney General's suing to stop it.
Purposeful Card Delay & Soaking Up Money From Patients
As if all this corruption isn't bad enough, the State of Michigan has continued to print up to 800 patient cards a day, but the volume of applications is around 1,500 per day. Once an application has been approved, the state has five days to print a card under state rules.
But now Clarkson says that an “equipment malfunction” has led to a backlog in printing about 20,000 medical marijuana cards. Figures released by the state show that nearly 200,000 applications have been received through the end of October, 14,288 of which have been denied.
However, the tale of one doctor whom contacted The Review is especially telling. On 4/28/11 two applications for two patients were sent on the same day. A check for $100 was cashed by an out-of-state-bank in Indiana, followed by a denial letter on 6/3/11. The reason for denial was no supporting documents for SSD, however the disability discount was never asked for and full price paid.
A letter was sent back along with a copy of the original application and a letter explaining the State's mistake on 6/3/11 and the patient was told the State found the problem but did not know how it happened and it would be fixed.
To date, no cards have been received and no refunds issues.
Chris Chiles is currently working to gather plaintiffs for a mandamus lawsuit against the State of Michigan. A recent graduate from the U of M he is on the national Board of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, among other national drug law reform groups. “With the right plaintiffs, we may be able to have a judge force the department to issue cards on time and review the new conditions that people have petitioned to be added,” he notes.
If any readers have encountered problems obtaining their cards, they are encouraged to collect the actual letters sent from the Department and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ACLU recently filed a lawsuit in Oakland County Circuit Court to strike down Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills ordinances that completely ban medical marijuana in direct violation of the MMM act.
The ACLU is representing a registered medical marijuana patient with multiple sclerosis and her husband who fear arrest and prosecution by local officials if they grow or use medical marijuana in compliance with state law.
In December, the ACLU of Michigan filed the case on behalf of Linda Lott, a Birmingham resident who has suffered from multiple sclerosis for nearly 30 years, and Robert Lott, her husband and caregiver. Confined to a wheelchair and blind, Linda experiences painful and relentless muscle spasms that can no longer be controlled by conventional medications. â€¨â€¨ The Lotts challenged a similar ordinance in Livonia; however a Wayne County Circuit Court judge dismissed that lawsuit. The ACLU of Michigan filed an appeal. The ACLU had asked that all three ordinances be declared invalid and unenforceable against medical marijuana patients and caregivers who comply with the state law.
Because medical marijuana is still technically illegal under federal law, the cities used this terminology to ban medical marijuana. The federal government, however, does not prosecute patients and caregivers who comply with their states' medical marijuana laws, and the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act specifically states that registered patients and their caregivers "shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner" for growing, possessing, or using medical marijuana.
Most legal professionals believe this is the case that Bill Schuette is betting the farm on and his hope is to get this before his pals on the State Court of Appeals so they can make a ruling on the entire MMMA being null and void based upon supposed 'federal supremacy'.
The municipality based their total ban on medical use, knowing full well it would be challenged. Because Schuette can't get the votes in the legislature to move legislation forward, he submitted an amicus curiae brief on behalf on the municipality in this set of court challenges in Wayne & Oakland counties.
In June, the ACLU lost in Wayne County Circuit Court, when Judge Wendy Baxter ruled the US Controlled Substances Act overrides state law and Livonia has the right to prohibit all medical pot use in that city. That decision is under appeal. Schuette filed an amicus curiae brief in that case also.
Even though the complainants are the ideal model of “patient” and caregiver you would want to see do the challenge, most attorneys that I've spoken to feel this judge will automatically rule against the plaintiffs (patients), and it will then be appealed to the Court of Appeals (which has been Schuette's and others' plan all along).
They're just going through the motions. Schuette has known he couldn't muster the required ¾ majority in the Legislature for quite some time, so this is the tactic he resorted to. The expectation for a COA ruling is that they will uphold Schuette's position, and the MI Supreme Court could very likely refuse to hear the case, which would let the COA ruling stand.
Specifically, Schuette and his cronies are hoping the Court of Appeals panel that gets the Lott case will agree with the lower court that the MMMA is unconstitutional and then give "immediate effect" to its ruling. If immediate effect were given, that would shut down the entire law until a higher court rules otherwise or declines to hear the case.
Licensing might also be receiving inside information and guidance from Schuette. And that is why the MM program has been staffed with temporary employees, who may not have a job in the near future. Gov. Rick Snyder is playing the part of indifference on the subject, most likely so not to be associated with taking such a blatant position of opposing the people.
See how the supposed “greatest system of justice in the world” works?
Tim Beck, who has been on the front lines of this battle, put it this way: “Based upon past decisions, it appears the Michigan Appellate Courts are fatally compromised, being mere extensions of a greater socially conservative agenda. Rule of law has been replaced by absolutism.”
On other fronts, The Michigan Medical Marijuana Association has also filed a grievance against Bill Schuette seeking his disbarment. The 150-page complain chronicles his abuses against the sick.
Truly 'Cleaning the Air' - Detailed Summary of Schuette's Law Enforcement Presentation
The Review has received the full presentation of Schuette's recent law enforcement seminar road show. Sabra Cahill is an Ann Arbor city councilwoman who attended the seminar and has also inserted her own notes opposite specific Powerpoint slides, in line with the presented information.
She writes, “One high point: Clarkson (who is the Regulating Manager of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program) provided inaccurate (false, but maybe not intentionally so) information about how the issue was placed on the ballot. â€¨ â€¨Another: the assumption that everyone in the room agreed on the agenda as presented by the Attorney General -- that marijuana is bad, that medical marijuana is bad, that patients, caregivers, doctors and dispensary owner/operators are all criminals, and that 'implementation and enforcement' means finding ways to circumvent the law.”
Download these Documents:
Attorney General Bill Schuette Presents Clearing the Air: Implementing and Enforcing Michigan's Medical Marijuana Law