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Home News  It’s time police simmer down on pot
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Wednesday, February 9,2011

It’s time police simmer down on pot

by Kyle Melinn

File this under: Old Habits Die Hard.


Police, prosecutors, judges, the whole legal pyramid right up the line can’t crack this old, tired belief that all marijuana is bad all the time — that someone growing pot "needs them some criminal charges."


Didn’t nearly two-thirds of Michigan voters say two years ago that a limited amount of medical marijuana could be grown legally? That it’s high time police found more productive uses for their time than harassing someone growing a little weed in the backyard?


And, yet, the Court of Appeals gave license to more law enforcement overreach when it allowed criminal charges against Owosso’s Larry S. King, who became a criminal for not having a conventional lock on his backdoor and for covering his 6-foot-high fence with a plastic tarp.


From a nosy neighbor’s property, police went Special Ops-like, using binoculars to spy into a converted dog kennel that King was using to legally grow his medical marijuana. The locked fence was 6 feet tall, but the plastic covering the enclosure was blowing in the breeze, allowing the cops to see real, live marijuana growing.


Justice needed to be served. Michigan State Police Sgt. Brian Fox and Shiawassee County Deputy Jed Eisenberger marched onto King’s property and asked him to produce his stateissued medical marijuana card, which he did.


They asked him to see his marijuana garden. He unlocked the gate for them.


They asked him if he was growing more. King said more plants were inside a closet in his house, but he wanted a warrant before showing those off. A warrant was produced.


King challenged the police, and they challenged back, using their imaginations to cook up a pair of charges only Nancy Reagan would be proud of.


Under their reasoning, the state law requiring pot to be grown in an "enclosed, locked facility" means an outdoor garden needs an attached roof because six feet of fence won’t do. And King’s back door needs a lock because however King secured his knob-less backdoor when he left the house (a board wedged in the door, for example,) wasn’t good enough).


This absurd reasoning has no ending.


At what point is King’s grounds "secured?" When he installs an alarm system? Motion detectors? A barbed-wired fence? A couple hungry Rottweilers? Why doesn’t he give Blackwater’s Erik Prince a call for some advice?


If a pair of industrious 15-year-olds wanted to get at King’s pot, they’d find a way. Just like if police don’t like someone’s attitude, they’ll find a way to make their life miserable.


Too many of our elected leaders and law enforcement officials have devoted too much of their energy swimming against a political current that changed direction a long time ago. A healthy majority not only is OK with medical marijuana but wants it legalized.


Political and legal actions going the other direction are passé and infuriating.


Like the Lansing City Council’s unnecessary moratorium on new medical marijuana shop permits.


These shops sprang up all over Lansing like weeds after voters said yes to Proposal 1 of 2008. It was a natural economic overreaction to the pent-up demand that’s out there. The laws of supply and demand will close down a good many of these shops in due time.


Stores selling the best product at the best prices with the best customer service will end up being successful. The rest will flame out. The universe of customers can only be so big.


Yet, our public leaders invent reasons to go after marijuana use for a cheap political lay-up. Its perceived evils have been pounded into our heads since DARE and the "Just say no" campaign. All drugs are bad all the time, right?


Wrong. Nothing so complicated is so black and white.


Society is now comfortable with the reality that marijuana is a naturally grown plant that, when smoked or otherwise ingested, can add comfort to those in chronic pain — and without the nasty side effects of morphine, Vicodin or some hard-core opiate.


Limitations were set into the citizen-passed law to prevent
the potential for abuse. Could there be better ideas on how to keep
marijuana out of the hands of that curious 15-year-old? Could there be a
better distribution method?


Absolutely.
In a way, Proposal 1 of 2008 was a conversation starter. How can we
make medical marijuana an accepted form of pain treatment? The measure
was made a law, not an impenetrable constitutional amendment, giving
state lawmakers room to polish after thorough hearings.


As
that’s done, patients need to be in the conversation. This is not an
intellectual exercise by alleged "conservative" prosecutors, police and
judges on how to render a popular law essentially meaningless.


If
they do, elected officials must know by now the public isn’t on their
side and the next thing going up in smoke is their own political future.


(Kyle Melinn is the editor of the MIRS Newsletter. He can be reached at melinn@lansingcitypulse.com.)

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