Articles Posted in Drug Cultivation and Manufacture

Timeline of Recreational Marijuana in Detroit Since State Legalization

In the two years since marijuana was legalized at the state level by popular vote in the 2018 elections, the introduction into the mainstream marketplace has seen its challenges. While an overwhelming majority of Michiganders voted to legalize marijuana in 2018, many local cities have chosen to exclude recreational marijuana retailers as a way to “keep marijuana out of their cities.” There are more than 1,400 municipalities who have blocked recreational marijuana businesses from opening in their areas. Since legalization, adult-use retail sales have eclipsed $375 million, with a very limited number of retail stores in Michigan. This number is expected to significantly increase with the long-awaited introduction of the city of Detroit into the legal recreational marijuana marketplace. Detroit City Council recently voted on a measure to allow recreational marijuana sales, along with a number of other licenses and permits related to the recreational industry.

Detroit City Council Ordinance Allowing Recreational Sales

While many in the state of Michigan have celebrated legislation that brings cannabis closer to legalization, there are still pitfalls to the distribution of the plant that has been embraced by our state. Since the passing of legislation, prosecutions in the state of Michigan for marijuana distribution have been on the rise. To discuss this issue in further detail, we spoke to top criminal lawyers in the state of Michigan on the topic.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has built a firm that has earned a reputation as being the top defenders of those charged with drug crimes in the state of Michigan. When asked about the upswing in prosecutions, Grabel stated, “This is similar to a trend that we saw in Colorado when cannabis was legalized. With the legalization to those with a license comes an increased black market. The Michigan State Police (MSP) have made it a priority to increase the prosecution of marijuana distribution despite favorable legislation that has been passed. As defense counsel, we need to react appropriately.”

Peter Samouris is a Senior Associate Attorney for Grabel and Associates and the founder of the Samouris Law Firm. Samouris has developed a strong reputation in the criminal defense sector and is known as one of the top litigators in Ingham County. When asked about the current developments, Samouris said, “Since the recreational marijuana law was passed, we have witnessed just how ill-prepared the legislature was for its passage. Of course, that type of unpreparedness created a situation where one can legally smoke, but not legally buy, recreational marijuana. Accordingly, this has been the main catalyst for the huge increase in black market sales.”

Recently, a federal class action lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Detroit Division against Michigan State Police crime labs claimed that Fourth Amendment rights and due process are violated by the current marijuana reporting policy.

According to news reports, the lawsuit would directly impact anyone caught with marijuana in the state, along with about 180,000 medical marijuana patients who are registered. Attorneys who filed the suit said that the MSP crime labs, in conjunction with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Dept. and Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan misreport marijuana as synthetic, and do so intentionally. The lawsuit also alleges that the marijuana policy which was written in 2013 was designed in an attempt to “strip medical marijuana patients of their rights and immunities, charge or threaten to charge citizens with greater crimes than they might have committed, obtain plea deals and increase proceeds from drug forfeiture.”

This basically stems from a lab policy instructing MSP crime lab techs to treat all TCH (the active ingredient in marijuana) as synthetic when not 100% certain it originates from a plant. While it may not sound like much, it is according to Michigan law. Essentially, individuals who are accused of manufacturing or selling synthetic THC or cannabis will face criminal charges that are far more serious than those accused of producing or selling cannabis grown as a plant.

Following an 8-month-long investigation by a DEA task force which netted $2.4 million in cash and 31 kilos of cocaine in the Baltimore area, four men are now facing federal drug charges. According to news reports at CBS in Baltimore, the major drug trafficking ring has ties to a Mexican drug organization. DEA Special Agent Karl Colder said following the massive drug bust that the task force has “just disrupted a major cell here in the area.”

Authorities say the men were disguising the drug deal organization as KMKJ Trucking, and transporting large amounts of drugs into Maryland from Mexico. DEA agents received a tip about the company, and on Friday discovered nearly 60 lbs. of cocaine inside a vehicle leaving unit L at the alleged trucking company’s warehouse. Two days earlier, the men reportedly unloaded a tractor trailer at that same warehouse.

Investigators also served a search warrant at one of the men’s homes, and discovered duffel bags in the basement containing more than $2 million dollars in cash that was vacuum-sealed, along with a ledger detailing the drug transactions. Those arrested in the drug trafficking scheme include 64-year-old Hector Hernandez-Villapando, two of his sons, and William Cornish, who news reports refer to as an accomplice. All of the men now face life in prison if convicted.

In December of last year, 24-year-old Jonathan J. Pilat was pulled over by Michigan State Troopers after he was spotted in a cemetery and troopers noticed upon him leaving that the license plate light on his vehicle was inoperable. Upon pulling Pilat over, troopers noticed a plastic baggie in Pilat’s right hand, and had him get out of the Ford sedan he was driving. According to news reports, the white powder in the baggie was tested and found to be methamphetamine.

Pilat allegedly told police he purchased the meth from another Pinconning man for $15. He was arrested and charged with one count of possession of methamphetamine, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison along with fines of up to $15,000. Pilat said he was in the cemetery because he was in the midst of a divorce, and was gathering his thoughts.

A few weeks later, the prosecutor in the case requested that the charge against Pilat be dismissed; his request was granted by Bay County District Judge Timothy J. Kelly on February 1. There was no reason given as to why the charge was dismissed, and the prosecutor could not be reached for comment.

On Saturday January 30, police in Bridgeport, CT executed a warrant which resulted in the arrest of a 30-year-old man as the city’s Violent Crime Reduction Task Force undertook a major drug and gun bust.

Police executed the warrant on Aldine Avenue, where they found what was described as an elaborate marijuana growing facility in the basement, complete with high intensity lamps, agriculture supplies, grow tents, and a mechanical irrigation and exhaust system. Jack Kelhoffer was arrested after police seized numerous drugs and substances including 23 bottles of anabolic steroids, 250 human growth hormone tablets, 85 marijuana plants, and more than 500 grams of harvested marijuana. Xanax tablets were also found on the property, along with 21 rifles and hand guns found in two safes.

Kelhoffer faces numerous drug-related charges including possession of marijuana over 4 ounces, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, cultivation of marijuana, and possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell.

On Saturday, October 18, Scott County Sheriff’s Department deputies went to the Benton, Missouri residence of a couple for a follow-up investigation on a domestic disturbance, according to a news article at the Southeast Missourian. What they found at the home of Russell and Connie Turner were drugs and drug paraphernalia, which resulted in both of the Turners’ arrest for possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Connie Turner, 40, signed a consent-to-search form presented by the deputies; Russell Turner, who is 50, was asked to give consent to search the residence and did so. In the search of the home, deputies discovered drug paraphernalia. Methamphetamine residue was also detected when a field test was performed on the items. Connie Turner admitted to using meth, although her husband denied it. A urine test that Russell Turner later submitted to indicated the presence of methamphetamine in his system. Both of the Turners were taken to the Scott County Jail, where each was given a $750 cash only bond.

In Missouri, the maximum sentence for a conviction of possession of methamphetamine is 7 years in prison and fines of up to $5,000. Even possession of illegal drugs is serious, and may leave those accused facing harsh criminal penalties.

Two 18-year-old teens were recently arrested in Charlotte County, FL following a traffic stop for suspicious activity, according to a news article at NBC 2. The driver of a white Pontiac Vibe, Keri Lee Bauch, and her passenger, Brennon Tyler Osborne, were arrested after a large quantity of marijuana was discovered in the vehicle.

Deputies began following the Vibe in the area of Taylor Road and North Jones Loop Road as the vehicle continued onto northbound I-75. News reports do not indicate what the suspicious activity was, only that deputies pulled the Vibe over after the driver sped up to speeds faster than the speed limit.

Deputies requested permission to search the vehicle after explaining why they pulled Bauch over; she declined consenting to the search, so a K9 deputy was called to the scene. Both occupants were asked to get out of the vehicle. When Osborne exited the car, deputies claim a plastic bag containing a considerable amount of marijuana was visible under the edge of the seat. In all, deputies seized several bags containing more than 220 grams of marijuana while searching the vehicle.

Both teens were charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana. At the time of news reports, both were being held on $17,500 bond each in the Charlotte County Jail.

In Michigan, possessing 5 kilograms or less of marijuana with the intent to distribute or sell the marijuana will result in criminal penalties that include up to four years in prison and fines of up to $20,000 for those convicted. The more weed involved in the crime, the more severe the penalties.

The punishment for various drug crimes in Michigan varies depending on the type and amount of drug involved, the schedule the drug falls into (1, 2, 3, 4, or 5), and the accused individual’s past criminal history. Whether the crime occurs within close proximity of a school, park, church, or home may also factor into the punishment handed down to someone found guilty of the crime.

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On Wednesday May 10, a Hoover, Alabama man was arrested in connection to distributing a controlled substance, what the DEA called ‘designer drugs’ that are poison and clearly designed for human consumption. 56-year-old Ali Reza Samanifar was arrested at his home and faces three charg es of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, according to a news article at Samanifar’s business was also searched following his arrest after authorities obtained a search warrant to search the A & S Food Mart, Inc.

The DEA is carrying out a nationwide roundup, raiding head shops and convenience stores where the ‘designer’ drugs are being sold. According to the article, the ongoing operation is known as Project Synergy; the Alabama portion of the nationwide sweep has been dubbed “Operation Red Tide.” The substances DEA agents are in search of include eight classes of drugs ranging from hallucinogens to stimulants. Continue reading

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