QUESTION: WHY WOULD two stores three miles apart and selling exactly the same product–marijuana–be treated differently? One was busted by law enforcement and forced to shut down earlier this year, while the other continues to operate and prosper five years after it opened.
It’s a question that epitomizes the absurdity, the inconsistency, and the utter unfairness of Michigan’s inane medical marijuana law that we voters approved seven years ago.
Okay, the specifics.
The Green Room, a medical marijuana dispensary on West Washington Street in Marquette, was shut down in January after a bust by UPSET officers. Illegal operation. Michigan law prohibits dispensaries of marijuana. Patients must obtain their medical marijuana directly from “caregivers,”–the folks who grow cannabis in their basements.
On the other hand, The Happy Carrot, a medical marijuana dispensary located in a strip mall off of US 41 in Marquette Township, has had no legal or law enforcement problems during its five years of operation, according to its owners.
So why the discrepancy? Talk to four of the principals in the case, and you get four different answers.
First, there’s Michelle DeLisle, the owner of the now defunct Green Room. She admits she was testing the law (and maybe violating it) when she opened her store, but she believes the Happy Carrot is allowed to remain open only because one of its owners, attorney Brian Bloch, is 1) connected to the legal and law enforcement establishment in Marquette County, 2) has the legal expertise to get around the law, and 3) has intimidated the establishment–busting him would be more trouble than it’s worth.
Second, Karl Numinen, who’s DeLisle’s attorney. His argument is different from his client’s. He claims, very persuasively, that it’s simply a matter of selective enforcement. Some municipalities in Michigan consider marijuana dispensaries a nuisance and shut them down; others leave them alone.
Proof? Detroit has about 90 medical marijuana dispensaries. Houghton has two. Baraga has one. There are dozens more downstate. Most have avoided legal problems and remain open. Marquette has none.
Numinen claims the Green Room, in Marquette, was busted because city officials here wanted it closed down while the Happy Carrot, located in the Township, remains open only because Township officials have felt no pressure to shut it down.
Third, we have Brian Bloch, one of the Happy Carrot’s owners. He begs to differ with Numinen. He says his store operates differently from a typical dispensary because it preserves the patient/caregiver relationship. He says the Happy Carrot simply acts as a middleman between a specific patient and a specific caregiver and takes its cut in return for providing a respectable business setting for the transaction.
Other dispensaries, he says, provide marijuana from various, unnamed growers to the patients. Michigan’s law says that’s illegal.
Fourth, Matt Wiese, the Marquette County Prosecutor. He doesn’t buy Bloch’s reasoning. He says both the Green Room and the Happy Carrot have violated Michigan law.
However. He says his office and law enforcement have simply not been able yet to catch anybody at the Happy Carrot committing an illegal act. Hard to believe. The place has been open for about 1800 days.
To be fair, Wiese has other minor problems to deal with–irritants like the meth crisis and rampant prescription drug abuse.
But back to Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act. It’s a mess. Wiese agrees.The fact that it’s applied inconsistently up and down the state is the obvious example. The fact that you can obtain a “medical” marijuana card by simply paying a few hundred dollars to any of a handful of pro-marijuana doctors is another. The fact that much of our “medical” marijuana is consumed by recreational users is another; even Bloch admits this.
The very term “caregiver.” Seriously, who came up with that term? We’re not talking about a nursing aide or a compassionate family member or friend here. We’re talking about someone who’s 21 or older and has no serious felony record. That’s it. Oh, and you have to be willing to grow marijuana in your basement and sell it for a profit.
Look, this isn’t an argument against the use of medical marijuana, not at all. Many patients get enormous relief from it. Nor is it an argument against growing marijuana and profiting from it. This is America. We honor free enterprise.
And pot certainly seems more benign than liquor. How many bar fights and wife-beatings are the result of someone getting high on marijuana?
But let’s not pretend we’re regulating a quasi-legal substance when all we’ve done is created a silly, ambiguous, ambivalent law that has confounded local governments, law enforcement agencies, and businesses.
By the way, there’s a good chance, we’re told, that we’ll be voting on a marijuana legalization law–a la Colorado, Washington and Oregon–in 2016.
Maybe then the silliness will end.
POOR LI’L WLUC. It’s being swapped around like a trading card.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, its owner, just traded it to Gray Television only two years after buying it. In exchange, Sinclair gets a TV station in South Bend, Indiana. The deal should be finalized by the end of the year or in early 2016.
Gray is based in Atlanta and now has stations in 50 small and medium-sized markets all around the country. Some of the markets include Flint, Lansing, Madison, Wausau and Eau Claire.
Too bad. Sinclair’s relationship with WLUC seemed like a good one. Employees were mostly pleased because Sinclair was pouring money into the station and paying attention to it.
So it goes in the world of high finance.
The deal, by the way, doesn’t reflect poorly on WLUC. Just the opposite. It was swapped for a station in a much larger–and ostensibly more lucrative–TV market.
IF YOU’VE DRIVEN along CR 480 at any time in the last decade or two, you’ve no doubt seen it.
A big, handsome but abandoned building at the corner of 480 and M-35. It just sat there all these years, lonesome and neglected. It’s a former schoolhouse that then became a residence of sorts, and then just went to seed.
Well, it’s coming alive again.
Carrier Construction and UP Abatement, which now rents its offices on US 41, has bought the abandoned schoolhouse, is renovating it and will soon be moving in.
Nice to see a little bit of Marquette County history preserved.
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