Michigan Man's Recent Arrest Raises Concerns About State's Forfeiture Laws

Is the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program becoming just another means for law enforcement officials to forfeit citizens' property and assets? This question is one that's currently being asked by some private citizens and defense attorneys throughout the state after the property and assets of one medical marijuana card holder were seized.

Under Michigan's medical marihuana laws, individual's with qualifying medical conditions, like cancer and glaucoma, are legally sanctioned to use and possess up to two and one-half ounces of the drug. Additionally, licensed individuals are also allowed to grow up to 12 plants.

Today, one Michigan cancer patient and marijuana card holder is currently facing criminal charges related to drug manufacturing and conspiracy. In November of 2013, police officers raided the man's home; seizing his car, money, phone and marijuana plants. According to police officers, they found 24 plants on the disabled 72-year-old man’s property. The man, however, contends the additional plants were only "clones, without roots," which he planned to use to replace dying plants.

Despite the seizure of the man's property and assets, at the time of the raid, police officers did not arrest or charge the man with any crime. In fact it wasn't until roughly 16 months later, after a story about the man's situation appeared in the Detroit Free Press, that he was arrested and charged with drug-related crimes.

The man's defense attorney asserts that law enforcement officials only filed the criminal charges in response to the news story to justify the forfeiture of his client’s property and assets. Law enforcement officials, however, contend that the man's recent arrest was part of a larger investigation regarding the business practices of an area dispensary.

This case raises many troubling questions about Michigan's civil asset forfeiture laws. A 2010 report issued by the Institute for Justice cited Michigan as having some of the most liberal forfeiture laws which provide "few safeguards to protect citizens from unfair seizures."

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