Not only should this case never have seen the light of a courtroom it certainly shouldn’t have ended with my friend escorted out in cuffs by FOUR county Sheriffs. Let me start at the beginning…well, maybe not the very beginning. Just the beginning of today.
You may have heard that I was hosting the nation’s first smoke-free #weedup. Simply stated it was the idea that a bunch of people who were caregivers, patients or those who support the use of medical marijuana in Michigan could gather to rally and support my friend AND speak out about the injustice. We met at 7:30 in the morning and although it was a very small group, I felt we were effective in getting our point across. I will cite the judge mentioning the group of people holding signs outside the courthouse as evidence. This post isn’t really about the rally. It’s about what happened inside the courtroom.
The judge started the day (about 9:30 after hearing another trial) by saying he understood what an undesirable thing jury duty seems to be and while it takes you away from EVERYTHING you’d rather be doing, most end up with a good feeling on the experience. He also shared how lucky they were because they drew what he believed would be a very quick case. He moved right into an inspirational speech about how great our forefathers were for fighting for trial by jury and having it be a core driver in our Declaration of Independence. He used China as an example of an unjust country and spoke in circles about the importance of fairness and equality under the law. It seemed so nice. If only I knew then what I came to realize later.
Jury selection begin a little after 10 and ended at about 10:45. They were again reminded that this trial would be quick.
The Defense attorney had a MAJOR challenge. He was instructed that even though my friend is a state registered caregiver, they could not use medical marijuana as part of their defense. Why you ask? Because when my friend was arrested he had both marijuana in jars and that which was cooked into brownies aka “medibles”. Turns out the state of Michigan hasn’t been clear on how to handle “medibles” so the court decided to weigh the ENTIRE batch of brownies and use the total weight of the medibles (brownies + marijuana) + the other marijuana as the final weight. Instead of just shy of 14 oz of marijuana (a registered caregiver is allowed to possess 15 oz) my friend had to stand trial for carrying a whopping 63 oz. That doesn’t seem fair you say?? No. No it’s not. In fact it is bullshit! And that’s not all of it.
As with all criminal cases (because they added brownie mix, milk, eggs and whatever else goes into brownies, my friend now faced felonious charges) the burden of proof rests on the prosecutor. If the prosecutor doesn’t prove the defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt, the jury is instructed to find the defendant “not guilty”. This sounded promising until the judge said what needed to be proved.
My friend was charged with “Possession with Intent to Distribute”. Did I mention he’s a registered caregiver with the state?? OF COURSE he intended to distribute. Clearly you can’t distribute without possession. This whole thing reminded me of the Salem Witch Trials. “Let’s knock the witch out and throw her in the river. If she floats, the devil is in her. If she sinks, God saved her soul”. I honestly think my buddy would have had a better chance with the witch hunters than he did in court and he can’t swim.
The jury saw a crazy amount of marijuana (honestly most people won’t see 10 oz of pot in one place ever).
- They heard testimony from three different police officers who all said it was the most weed they’d ever captured at one time.
- They heard a chemical forensics expert claim that it definitely was marijuana even though she admitted to only testing about 1/10th of it.
- They heard a narcotics expert tell them that no one would have this much weed on them unless they were trying to sell it.
Apparently they bought it all. And why shouldn’t they…it was almost exclusively true. What the jury was told was the truth. What they weren’t told is where the honesty dissipates.
They weren’t told why. Not only were they not told why, the judge and counsel went out of their way to make sure it wasn’t mentioned. The attorney for the defendant did an outstanding job of not using the words “medical” “patient” or “caregiver” once. He did a better job getting others to mention it. There was a moment when the arresting officer was reading a label on one of the seized goods and skipped over where it said “medical marijuana for medicinal use only”. The defense attorney asked him to reread it in his cross examination. It was brilliant strategy until the judge ordered the jury to disregard that part of the testimony.
At 4:05 the jury was given closing instructions from the judge that had a few main points:
1. Deliberation must stop by 5.
2. If you can’t reach a verdict by 4:30 it can’t be entered today.
3. You can come back anytime tomorrow after 8:30
4. That only the answers were evidence. The questions or statements were not.
20 minutes after being dismissed a note was sent stating the jury had reached a decision.
We still had hope as we walked back into the courtroom. That was until the 4 sheriffs walked in before the jury did.
Here’s what I know for sure.
Marijuana has several medicinal applications
Some patients who use it feel MUCH relief
Michigan citizens voted for medical marijuana to be legal in 2008. It passed with a 63% approval rating.
If a President won an election with a 63% approval rating, we would call it a landslide.
Caregivers and patients that are registered with the state should not fear persecution
Caregivers and patients that are register ARE FACING prosecution
When in court you are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The aforementioned should be respected and upheld at every turn. For this to be true, ALL evidence found should be entered as an exhibit (I didn’t mention how many times the “paperwork” was referred to. The paperwork being his medical marijuana paperwork which was in a binder that was seized).
AND That my friend was found guilty for possession of marijuana with an intent to distribute. If I were on the jury and that was the question that I was asked I would have had to conclude that. The problem is that’s a given. Of course he was in possession. Of course what he possessed was marijuana. And of course he intended to distribute it. What’s the point of being a medical marijuana caregiver if you don’t distribute it?
This trial NEVER should have gone to court. Since it did, they should have at least been able to present the evidence. Instead Oakland county has another big bust under their belt. Which was clearly the goal. It saddens me greatly. Not just because a friend is likely going to jail (sentencing on 3/15) but because I don’t feel that the law that 63% of voters in 2008 enacted has been upheld properly.
What do you think?