In local news, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department has been conducting raids on medical marijuana sellers.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Narcotics Enforcement team raided three businesses and 12 homes Wednesday and confiscated marijuana, $30,000 in cash, guns, grow lights, patient records and two guard alligators, authorities said Thursday.
Prosecutors contend the operators of Clinical Relief in Ferndale and Everybody’s Caf;&eacute and Herbal Remedies, both in Waterford, were exceeding the number of people they could supply with medicinal marijuana and providing the drug to people without proper documentation.
“You can’t sell to anybody but five designated patients,” Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said Thursday at a news conference. A two-month investigation found the establishments were selling to dozens, she said.
“This is Michigan. This is not a Cheech and Chong movie,” Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said.
Bouchard and Cooper contend the operators of the three establishments went far outside the law’s scope, selling pot to people lacking medical documentation and in some cases, to undercover officers.
The sheriff said some of the people purchasing pot at the dispensaries were there because of “sore shoulders and stomachaches,” conditions not covered by the law.

Is it true that “sore shoulders” and “stomach aches” are not covered by the law? Here’s the relevant text of the law:

a) “Debilitating medical condition” means 1 or more of the following:
(1) Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, nail patella, or the treatment of these conditions.
(2) A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces 1 or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe and chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.
(3) Any other medical condition or its treatment approved by the department, as provided for in section 5(a).

Can chronic pain include “sore shoulders” and “stomach aches”? Can “severe and persistent muscle spasms” include shoulder pain? Are not stomach aches a symptom of nausea?
Are such questions for the police or a doctor? What the law states is that the patients are supposed to be diagnosed with one of these conditions by a doctor:

(h) “Qualifying patient” means a person who has been diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition.

So, if a doctor diagnoses such a condition, the patient can legally obtain the marijuana:

(b) A primary caregiver who has been issued and possesses a registry identification card shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including but not limited to civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for assisting a qualifying patient to whom he or she is connected through the department’s registration process with the medical use of marihuana in accordance with this act, provided that the primary caregiver possesses an amount of marihuana that does not exceed:
(1) 2.5 ounces of usable marihuana for each qualifying patient to whom he or she is connected through the department’s registration process; and
(2) for each registered qualifying patient who has specified that the primary caregiver will be allowed under state law to cultivate marihuana for the qualifying patient, 12 marihuana plants kept in an enclosed, locked facility; and
(3) any incidental amount of seeds, stalks, and unusable roots.

As I read it, if the supplier is limited to “2.5 ounces of usable marihuana for each qualifying patient,” and 12 plants, then how much marijuana could be grown or possessed as inventory would depend on the number of patients, and the number of primary caregivers involved.
In that regard, the language of the law is a bit confusing:

(d) The department shall issue a registry identification card to the primary caregiver, if any, who is named in a qualifying patient’s approved application; provided that each qualifying patient can have no more than 1 primary caregiver, and a primary caregiver may assist no more than 5 qualifying patients with their medical use of marihuana.

So, it would seem that in order to run a coordinated medical marijuana dispensary, you would need to ensure a five to one ratio between patients and primary caregivers. If, say, there were 100 patients, there would have to be 20 caregivers. Unless there were a common agreement by all caregivers on some sort of collective storage location, that would present obvious inventory control issues. Were I their lawyer, I would advise them to keep careful track of the numbers of patients, and ensure there are enough caretakers with written agreements spelling out the quantities of marijuana allowed on hand. In theory, 100 patients would mean 250 ounces, and 1200 plants.
Thinking about all the paperwork, though, makes me glad I don’t smoke pot.
The Drug War is a tired issue for me, and it might not normally be worth a post, but for a couple of things. One is the presence of “guard alligators” allegedly found. (Alligators are nowhere specifically mentioned in the text of the act, although it does mention “locks or other security devices that permit access only by a registered primary caregiver or registered qualifying patient.”) The Freep story doesn’t say much about them beyond this:

The raids included 13 homes of operators and employees, where much of the marijuana was found. The alligators were found in a home with a large marijuana inventory and were there to guard it, Bouchard said.

How large were they, and why isn’t there a picture? I’ve had experience with alligators, and I can tell you that if you were trying to guard a home or a business, a captive alligator would be a very poor choice of guard animal. They are generally sluggish creatures which tend to become fat and tame in captivity, and the only thing they’re interested in is food. A human “invader” would be regarded with complete disinterest unless he waved a rat or a piece of meat at them. Humans are not normal alligator prey, and even though attacks happen occasionally, it would take a very large alligator to actually be capable of preying on a human. While I suppose that there is a slight possibility that a large underfed alligator left in a home might act scary towards an invader, it would not scare me if I were the invader. If I knew it was there, I’d just bring some food. I would not consider my house safe if all I had was an alligator; dogs are infinitely better. So I find myself wondering whether these people just happened to have a couple of alligators and the story was sexed up.
If so, for what possible purpose? Others may disagree with me, but it is my considered opinion based on personal experience with alligators that because they are inherently unreliable, alligators do not constitute “other security devices that permit access only by a registered primary caregiver or registered qualifying patient.” So I’m having a bit of trouble understanding what gives here. The law requires the marijuana to be secured, right? Presumably, that means locks, alarms, and maybe guard dogs. Is Sheriff Bouchard contending that the alligators violate the law because they are inadequate security devices? Surely he isn’t against providing security devices, because the law requires security devices, and his job is to enforce the law, so perhaps that’s what he means. If so, then why doesn’t he say so? Stripped of hysteria, it’s a fairly straightforward issue: “guard alligators” either are security devices or they are not. The fact that he is calling them “guard alligators” implies that he thinks they were being used as security. If that is the case, then the only issue becomes their adequacy. And even that would be irrelevant if additional security devices “that permit access only by a registered primary caregiver or registered qualifying patient” were present. Which leaves only the issue of the legality of alligators in Michigan. While this Yahoo post is hardly authoritative, it appears that the pet Nazis have not made them illegal.
And they better not! Interestingly, I just saw alligator meat apparently being legally offered for sale at a fair in Ypsilanti last week; I hope the sellers weren’t undercover cops trying to entrap me into buying it.
(Sorry for my digression, but I am only trying to analyze what’s in the news.)
The other issue I worry about is that Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard was a candidate for governor, and was favored by many in the Tea Party movement, which I support. I saw him speak in Lansing, and I was not particularly impressed. There’s an election coming, and I hope these raids don’t constitute some sort of political posturing.
But if what I read in The Detroit News is any indication, political posturing might be the whole idea. While there are plenty of accompanying pictures, curiously, there are no alligators. Why? What if it turns out they were harmless baby alligators being sexed up to somehow smear the marijuana dispensaries or titillate voters?
I find some of the additional details about the raid perturbing:

Ryan Richmond, co-owner of Clinical Relief, said he operates a medical marijuana consultation business where certified patients can pick from among 15 to 20 varieties of medical marijuana to take elsewhere for use. Richmond’s company also sells edibles: products that contain cannabis, including sodas, suckers and baked goods.
This morning, Richmond said his business partner, Matthew Curtis, and three other employees were in police custody after police raided his business at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
“They had patients on the ground. There were cancer patients on the ground, senior citizens on the ground and staff on the ground. They raided all of our partners’ homes while their kids were home. They were taking their TVs like we were drug dealers,” Richmond said.
Richmond said police took HIPAA-protected documents, all patient files and TVs from the clinic.
“I am in shock. They have not said why they did this,” he said.
Richmond said the company’s Lansing store was not raided and was operating this morning.
“Our clinic is empty now. I heard them say they want a test case. That’s what a detective said at the store,” Richmond said.

A test case? My hope is that this does not degenerate into a liberal versus conservative, Republican versus Democrat issue. Considering that Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Initiative passed overwhelmingly, it’s a loser for Republicans.
Just to be thorough, I checked the official results for the “State Proposal – 08-1: Legislative initiative to allow under st. law the medical use of marijuana”:


The site displays the county results, and I could not find one in which the initiative failed, so this is hardly an urban versus rural issue.
But I guess arguments about the popularity of an issue with the voters are based on practicality as opposed to principles. And on principle, I oppose the Drug War, as I have explained in countless posts. However, where it comes to politics, I am also a pragmatist, so I put aside my principles and end up voting for conservatives who believe in the drug war, generally because I think they’re better on economic issues. But still, shouldn’t putting aside one’s principles be a two way street? If right-leaning libertarians are willing to put aside their principles out of political pragmatism, then shouldn’t drug-war conservatives be willing to do the same? Especially when the voters disagree with them?
I realize that many principled conservatives think the drug war is right, but is this “we have to fight the drug war, regardless of what the voters think!” mindset a “principle” so worth fighting for that it’s more important than winning elections?
Some maintain that the Tea Party should take a libertarian approach to the Drug war, and Jeffrey Miron makes a good case for it at NRO.
Many Tea Partiers I know do tend towards the libertarian view of the Drug War, but they’re too savvy to let it be a litmus test issue, much less a litmus test for conservative principles.
What I would really hate to see would be hard line Drug Warriors like Newt Gingrich (who supports Singapore style death penalty drug laws) try to make it their litmus test.
I hate to say it, but the hard line drug warriors actually make me want to go out and watch a Cheech and Chong movie.
Which would be bad, because I don’t especially like Cheech and Chong or other stoner flicks, and I’d hate to become a reactionary.