FERNDALE, Mich. (Aug. 8, 2016) – Bowing to intense pressure by local residents, a Michigan city has yanked a funding for a narcotics task force known for raiding medical marijuana facilities and harassing patients, demonstrating the power of local activism.

In May we reported that law enforcement agencies in Michigan actively work to undermine state law legalizing marijuana for medical use. The Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET) is among the state law enforcement organizations that actively pursue patients legally using medical marijuana and conduct raids on legally operating medicinal cannabis dispensaries.

Dana Carver has worked as a marijuana activist in the Great Lakes state for years. She said “the law itself is great,” but many patients authorized to possess medicinal cannabis find themselves prosecuted due to strict interpretations of the statute. Attorney General Bill Schuette opposed legalizing medical marijuana and has essentially declared war on the program, Carver said some of these executive branch directives actually run counter to language in the law itself.

Last month, a number of local activists spoke at a Ferndale City Council meeting, asking city leaders to reconsider a funding grant to the city’s police department. The money came from fees collected from medical marijuana cardholders, The state made the money available to counties to offset costs of enforcement of the the medical marijuana act.

According to Oakland County One~Fifteen News, the county made the funds available to the15 municipalities that participate on NET. Ferndale was slated to receive $5,000 to help pay overtime hours for Ferndale P.D. officers serving on NET.

Activists led by Former Mayor Craig Covey implored the council to reject the funds due to NET’s aggressive prosecution of medical marijuana patients and businesses.

“These funds come from patients and I want people to understand that,” Covey said, reminding the council of a 2010 raid on Clinical Relief, a dispensary that opened with city council approval that was then raided.

The council voted 3-1 to reject the funds. Council member Greg Pawlica was among the no votes.

“Our community as a whole has legalized. To accept funds that are being used to arrest people for something we considered legal even if it may be in Clawson or Pontiac, I still have an issue with it.”

According to the Weed Blog, the raid mentioned by Covey was only one of many.

“Although Clinical Relief is the most famous of the raids authorized by Bouchard, there were others. On the same day, Everybody’s Cafe in Waterford and Four Bears dispensary in Macomb County were raided by the Oakland County Deputies; other raids followed, including police actions in the Lapeer County village of Dryden and in early 2011, on my offices for the Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine and the Big Daddy’s dispensary in Oak Park, a community neighbor to Ferndale.”

Other activists also spoke during the council meeting, including area resident Deb Young (MILegalize Board member), who led a successful effort to legalize marijuana in Ferndale via a petition drive; Steve Sanderson, another raid victim from the Gaylord actions; and Charmie Gholson (Michigan Moms).

As the Weed Blog points out, this type of local, grassroots activism can make a huge difference.

“The people’s voice carried weight. Ferndale activists continued the trend of fighting the narco raid teams where they hurt most: in the pocketbook. Narcotics raid teams fight against heroin and methamphetamine in Michigan cities, a necessary endeavor, but raid team leaders are slowly getting the message that jamming up medical marijuana patients- and the businesses that serve them- is a losing proposition, from a public relations standpoint and from a financial perspective, too.”

We can’t depend on politicians and government officials to willingly give up power. It is imperative that everyday people maker their voices heard. As this action in Ferndale demonstrates, you can make a difference, especially at the local level.

Mike Maharrey