No Law? No Warrant? No Problem!
"Do you expect to see any violence here today?"
"I certainly hope so." — Narcotics officer Sgt. Stedenko, aka "Hardhat," answers a reporter's question at a drug checkpoint on the U.S.- Mexican border, from the film Up In Smoke.
Sal Agro, a 67-year-old man from Lake Orion, Michigan, died of a heart attack on September 2. Although those responsible for Agro's untimely death will never admit as much, he was the victim of an act of state terrorism carried out a week earlier by the Oakland County Sheriff's Office
Agro, along with his son, helped operate a treatment center in nearby Ferndale called Clinical Relief that provided medical marijuana to physician-approved clients under a 2008 Michigan state law. Sal, who had recently undergone hip surgery, was authorized to grow and use marijuana himself. His wife was authorized both to use marijuana and provide it to others as a caregiver. They had invited local officials to inspect the Clinical Relief facility.
Last June, with at least eight applications pending to open facilities like Clinical Relief, the Ferndale City Council imposed a temporary moratorium on dispensing medical marijuana while it explored new ways to harass the facilities through zoning restrictions. This prompted an objection from Mayor Craig Covey, who pointed out that the medical marijuana clinics would already be covered by existing ordinances. Nor were they likely to be profitable, given the detailed and often self-contradictory regulations inflicted on them under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA), which voters approved by referendum in 2008.
On August 25, the Ferndale City Council lifted the moratorium. On the very next day, the local counter-narcotics Gestapo staged a paramilitary raid against several locations in Oakland County, arresting 15 people, confiscating cash and crops, illegally seizing medical records, and terrorizing unarmed, helpless people who suffer from cancer and other painful afflictions. Most importantly, of course, the raiders got a potent fix of their preferred narcotic — the depraved thrill that comes from making powerless people submit to their whims.
It's hardly an exaggeration to characterize the Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET) as the local "Gestapo." Agro used that term to describe the ski mask-clad marauders who laid waste to his home, ripping apart furniture, throwing potting soil into the carpets and — of course — helping themselves to whatever cash they could find.
A similar home invasion robbery was carried out at the Lake Orion home of Agro's daughter-in-law. "She's approximately five-foot, weighs about eighty-nine pounds, and the masked officers put a shotgun in her face and told her to freeze," a wearily disgusted Agro recalled to a local reporter.
After learning about the raid, Agro went back to his house, which was swarming with armed tax-feeders.
"I asked what was going on, and they said, 'Your house is being searched,'" Agro related. "I said, 'Do you have a search warrant?' They said, 'Yes.' I said, 'Can I see it?' They said, 'When we get ready to show it to you.'" Despite the fact that the invaders had a note from a judge supposedly authorizing them to trash Agro's home, the raid was, as the victim pointed out, an act of "illegal search and seizure," since the money and property that were stolen had nothing to do with a criminal act.
The same lawless behavior was on display at another facility called Everyone’s Café, where police threw cancer patients to the ground and held them at gunpoint.
"What took place in Oakland is nothing short of armed robbery," protests Gersh Avery, a local medical marijuana activist. "Patients in those locations had nothing to do with the day-to-day operations, yet their medicine was forcibly taken from them." The NET, Avery concludes, "deliberately targeted sick innocent people."
The official sadism continued after the case was split into two groups of defendants. Judge Richard Kuhn of Michigan's 51st District Court in Waterford refused to waive a bond condition permitting the use of medical marijuana by defendants who had received medical authorization to do so. Astoundingly, 43rd District Judge Joe Longo, who is presiding over the case in Ferndale, permitted defendants with medical marijuana cards to continue using the palliative while out on bail. This, of course, begs the question of why those people are criminal defendants in the first place.
Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard claims that the raid followed "undercover" investigations of Clinical Relief and Everyone's Cafe. William Joseph Teichman, co-owner of Everyone's Cafe, insists that "We check the identification of every patient we deal with, and those undercover cops had either proper ID and paperwork or forgeries so good we couldn't tell the difference."
In a post-raid press conference, Sheriff Bouchard — grasping for a suitable soundbite — described the local medical marijuana market as "something out of a bad Cheech and Chong Movie," without elaborating as to whether he considers "Up in Smoke" or "Nice Dreams" to be the gold standard of the stoner duo's cinematic output.
September 23, 2010
Copyright © 2010 William Norman Grigg