The Growing Divide In How America's Law Enforcement Approaches Medical Marijuana

For Oakland residents who want marijuana policies that protect public safety and secure access for medical marijuana patients, it is the best of times and the worst of times. It just depends on which Oakland you live in.


The lives of medical marijuana patients in Oakland County, Michigan and Oakland, California are as different as night and day. While medical marijuana patients in Oakland, CA are protected and treated like law-abiding citizens, medical marijuana patients in Oakland County, MI aren’t so fortunate. Since 2008, when medical marijuana was legalized in Michigan, dozens of legitimate patients have been raided and prosecuted like common criminals.

On the other hand, over the last few years, the Oakland (California) Police Department has been very progressive in taking steps to ensure that medical marijuana patients are protected under the law.

For example, Oakland PD invited advocates into their police academy to make sure their cadets were properly educated on issues surrounding medical marijuana.

Oakland PD also changed its arrest policy to require officers to obtain approval from their on-duty sergeants before they arrest anyone with a medical marijuana card for possessing marijuana.

This policy has reduced the number of patients clogging the court system because of arrests that would most likely have been thrown out when they got to trial. It has also helped build trust between the police and Oakland’s burgeoning marijuana community.

Oakland, CA has chosen to license and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries instead of raiding them. They have created over 1,000 new jobs, with the average legal marijuana employee making $25 an hour including family health care coverage.

By taking these forward-thinking steps, Oakland has been able to blaze the way for other cities in California that have chosen to “tax and regulate” instead of “raid and prosecute” when it comes to medical marijuana.

As a former police officer and current medical marijuana patient (whose life was literally saved by this medicine) I applaud the city of Oakland for taking a sensible and safe approach to medical marijuana regulation.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the residents of Oakland County, Michigan, where “reefer madness” is apparently still entrenched into the core of local government, even though the state's voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative legalizing medical marijuana in 2008.

Recently the Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Team raided the homes and business of numerous medical marijuana patients and caregivers. They destroyed plants using alcohol Prohibition-era tactics.

What was their justification for using taxpayer money to raid and arrest medical marijuana patients?

According to Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, the state’s medical marijuana law doesn’t specifically mention collectives and co-op grows. He claims that means such operations are illegal. What Sheriff Brouchard fails to realize is that nothing in the law prohibits medical marijuana caregivers from joining together and acting cooperatively to grow and consolidate.

And that’s exactly what these individuals were doing.

After the raids, Sheriff Bouchard likened the patients’ activities to “organized crime,” claiming they were trying to turn Michigan into a “Cheech and Chong” movie. Then, just to add salt on an open wound, the prosecutor obtained a court order prohibiting many of the patients who had been arrested from even using medical marijuana in accordance with their doctors’ recommendations.

So much for being innocent until proven guilty.

Oakland County needs to understand that every dollar spent on raiding, arresting and prosecuting medical marijuana patients and caregivers is a dollar that won’t be spent on raiding, arresting and prosecuting child molesters and rapists.

If they choose to continue with the raid and prosecute tactics, they will only continue to squander taxpayer money and hurt their most venerable citizens: the sick people the medical marijuana law was enacted to help.

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