Oakland County Sheriff's deputies on Wednesday raided an Oak Park magazine, dispensary and hydroponic shop run by a local entrepreneur who says marijuana saved his life after a foot injury ended his construction career.
A spokesman for Rick "Big Daddy" Ferris, the 46-year-old Berkley resident who runs the complex -- which houses the Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine office, nonprofit Big Daddy's Compassion Club and Big Daddy's Hydro -- told the Detroit Free Press that authorities did not make any arrests during the raid "because none of us were breaking the law."
They did, however, seize cash.
Jan. 13, Freep.com: In Wednesday's raid, officers wore bulletproof vests, and one wore a mask, said attorney Jim Rasor, who represents Big Daddy's Enterprises. But they took nothing except about $20,000 in cash, gathered from receipts, the offices and wallets of about 10 employees and patients, he said.
The sheriff gets 80% of the money seized, under state drug forfeiture laws that give the rest to the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office, said Rasor, who also is an elected Royal Oak city commissioner.
"I know, as a public official, that the public sector is running out of money. But it's just plain wrong to finance your operation on the backs of people who are ill (or) providing a safe alternative to obtaining medical marijuana on the street," Rasor said.
Deputies presented a search warrant and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard has yet to address the raid, the first since his office organized mass raids at two dispensaries in August, so it's unclear whether Rasor's suggestion of a cash grab has legs. But forfeitures have become a contentious issue across Metro Detroit, where various agencies have come to rely on seizures to supplement their shrinking budgets.
Defending the August raids in Ferndale and Waterford Township, Bouchard and Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper argued medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal because the Michigan Marihuana Act of 2008 makes no mention of such businesses, which remain illegal under federal law. Authorities made dozens of arrests during those raids, and the pending criminal cases could help shape enforcement of the law barring clarification from Lansing.
Ferris started the Oak Park complex and began advocating after he personally used medical marijuana as a successful treatment for a foot injury and associated complications that ended his 20-year career in the construction industry.
"I'm not taking any Vicodin or Xanax now," he told the Metro Times in an October profile. "I lost 250 pounds. I don't lie around in bed no more. It saved my life. That's why I do what I do now. Every penny I have is used to make sure this law stays for people that need it."
Ferris said Big Daddy's employs 17 people, makes most of its money off lighting system sales and supplies free marijuana to roughly one-third of compassion club patients as a result of associated caregivers who donate excess product.
The Metro Times profile, written by Larry Gabriel, ended with a passage that seems especially relevant in light of Wednesday's raid and Rasor's suggestion: "There is and always has been a lot of money involved in the drug war, and those who benefit from it want to hang on to their cash flow. But maybe it's time to see entrepreneurs in the drug business in a different light."
Update: While the Oakland County Sheriff's Office has yet to address the raid, Rick Thompson, who writes for the Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, tells the Oakland Press he believes the matter could be related to the recent DEA subpoena for patient records in Lansing. Thompson said county deputies told him, "Don't blame us, it comes from above."
By Jonathan Oosting
Thursday, January 13, 2011
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