Cardholders and caregivers in Livingston County could find a sheriff’s deputy in the door doing spot checks to ensure they are in compliance with the medical marijuana laws in Michigan. Local law enforcement is preparing to beef up enforcement.
After being given a state grant that will reimburse up to $47,438 of the expenses through September, the county’s sheriff department intends to set up a new medical marijuana supervision program. It is going to be spent on enforcement, equipment and education.
“We already enforce the state laws, but this will allow for a targeted response for compliance checks,” Lt. Eric Sanborn of the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office said.
“It would be spot checks. There doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem, it is only to make sure people are in compliance,” he said.
Police Officers can show up unannounced.
“It does us no good to let them know we’re coming,” he said.
It was unsettling news to Howell-area attorney and founder of the Michigan Cannabis Development Association Denise Pollicella, who said compliance checks are “incredibly invasive.”
“My reaction as an attorney is that it’s extremely unconstitutional to show up to make sure people are complying with the law, in terms of due process,” Pollicella said. “That hasn’t been well-defined enough in the courts.”
Pollicella helped draft legislation to revise medical marijuana laws in Michigan, as well as the state Senate last fall passed a package of bills that, in part, develop a licensing system for commercial marijuana businesses. The bills — HB 4209-4210, HB 4827, SB 141 and SB 1014 — build upon the constitutional amendment passed by voters to legalize medical marijuana in 2008.
“I don’t have any problem with law enforcement applying the law. But I don’t think it’s necessary for them to get additional funding to target medical marijuana,” she said.
There are 1,812 medical marijuana patients with state-issued cards residing in Livingston County, according to state data provided by the sheriff’s department. There are about 184,000 individuals in the county.
The grant money is part of about $3 million pulled from medical marijuana patient fees that the state spreads to counties throughout Michigan for “education, communication and enforcement” of state medical marijuana laws, according to Michael Loepp, a spokesman for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
The county’s share of the grant money would pay for equipment, like additional portable radios and mobile computers, as well as cover staff costs and overtime.
“A large amount of it is about education,” which the grant money will help fund, Sanborn said. “I can tell you right now, there are plenty of cardholders and caregivers out there who don’t understand what the rules are and what is required of them by law. We also anticipate holding a public forum to educate the general public.”
Although there are presently no dispensary store fronts in the county, there are smoke shops which sell paraphernalia.
Sanborn said the police will check up on shops which sell things like pipes and other equipment used to consume medical marijuana, but are not permitted to dispense medical marijuana.
“There might not be any true dispensaries in the county, however there are certainly stores that sell related items, and we would like to make sure these shops aren’t overstepping their bounds,” he said.
The finance committee of the Livingston County Board of Trustees, which is comprised of the county’s nine commissioners, voted unanimously in favor of permitting the sheriff’s department to accept the grant money. They’re expected to give it a final stamp of approval at the board’s March 6 meeting, which will be held at 7:30 p.m.in the boardroom of the county administration building at 304 E Grand River Ave. in Howell.