On Wednesday May 27th 2015, 8 dispensaries and 8 homes in and around Otsego county were raided by numerous police agencies including Straits Area Narcotics Enforcement (SANE), Michigan State Police (MSP), members from Huron Undercover Narcotics Team (HUNT) and U.P. Substance Enforcement Team (UPSET). No public nuisance notices were given to the operating businesses ahead of the raids and no arrests were made during them. Search and seizure paramilitary tactics, such as officers screaming “where is the money”, were reported by numerous owners and workers involved in the incident. These business are not new to the Gaylord/Otsego area; some have been operating for years and a few have opened as recently as April 20th of this year. Some of the reportedly seized items include over 100 marijuana plants, edibles, vehicles, weapons, and “processed marijuana (a term which means harvested, trimmed, and possibly dried for consumption).” Reports are vague as to whether it was “usable medicine” or not by law. All samples have been sent to the lab across the state for further quantification, though edibles remain “unable to test” as the Michigan State Police have oddly testified to previously in legislative committee hearings.
According to Detective Lt. Ken Mills, SANE unit commander, investigations regarding the legality of these dispensaries began more than two weeks ago. “We had received information that the dispensaries, or at least some, were operating illegally,” he said. “They were not following medical marijuana laws and we were in position to initiate investigations.” (Petoskey news).
Jamie Lowell, President of Michigan Chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), said the raids performed by SANE were “unfortunate and unnecessary, leaving compassionate centers where relief had been found in the past to now being forced to turn away patients in need.” He went on to add that performing“controlled buys”, like those that led to the paramilitary-style home invasions and raids of businesses, only adds confusion. Lowell would rather see police forces conducting a dialogue with the businesses before resorting to forceful S.W.A.T. tactics.
About 40 community members, patients, caregivers, and dispensaries owners from around the state gathered on the following Monday, June 1st, to protest the Military style raids. The crowd walked from the Otsego County Building to the Michigan State Police Post with flags and signs while chanting things like “free the weed” and “give us our medicine back!” Once at the MSP post, a press conference was held with members of advocacy groups and for some of the affected individuals to let their frustrations out.
On Monday, June8th, nearly 25 dispensary owners and medical marijuana advocates showed their support at the Gaylord City Council meeting and asked the councilmen to consider a city ordinance allowing dispensaries a proper place in the city to operate under certain protections and guidelines. Al Witt, an employee from one of the eight dispensaries raided, alongside Ben Horner, owner of Flint-based MiOrganic Solutions, presented a copy of Flint’s city ordinance for consideration. The council members listened well to the idea, though it was clear no action would be taken that day. The Mayor of Gaylord, Jim Jenkins, has stated he “has no issues with the businesses operating if they are found to be operating within the law.” More meetings are planned for the future, and a few of the stores in the area remain open to serve patients.