?1600s — Hemp brought to America by Puritans.
?1700s — George Washington grows hemp on his farm.
?1880s — Cannabis used recreationally and in medicine.
?1906 — Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 passed, which includes cannabis on list of dangerous drugs, and paves the way for the establishment of the Food and Drug Administration.
?1936 — Film “Reefer Madness” released, positing that marijuana use causes madness.
?1937 — Federal Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 passed, essentially making marijuana illegal except for medical or industrial uses.
?1951 — Boggs Act establishes mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana distribution and possession.
?1956 — Narcotic Control Act of 1956 further increases penalties.
?1970 — Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 hallucinogenic in the Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Prevention Act of 1970, making it illegal in the U.S. Mandatory sentences declared unconstitutional. Tax Act of 1937 repealed.
?1996 — California becomes the first state to legalize medical marijuana.
?Nov. 4, 2008 — Michigan legalizes medical marijuana.
?April 2009 — Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulation begins accepting applications from medical marijuana patients and caregivers.
?Oct. 19, 2009 — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says it won’t be a priority to prosecute individuals who are in compliance with state laws.
?Aug. 25, 2010 — Raids conducted at Everybody’s Cafe in Waterford Township, Herbal Remedies in Waterford Township, and Clinical Relief in Ferndale.
?April 12, 2011 — Federal agents raid three Oakland County properties.
?Aug. 24, 2011 — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says appeals court ruling empowers local communities to close dispensaries.
?Dec. 16, 2011 — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette moves to close dispensaries as public nuisances.
?Nov. 6, 2012 — Massachusetts voters legalize medical marijuana. Colorado and Washington State voters legalize recreational marijuana use.
?Nov. 5, 2013 — Ferndale voters adopt ballot proposal decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. The vote is symbolic.
?Dec. 16, 2013 — Oakland Circuit Judge Phyllis McMillen dismisses medical marijuana charges against Earl Carruthers and five others. Prosecutors appeal.
?Dec. 27, 2012 — Michigan Public Act 460 takes effect and restricts transportation of medical marijuana.
?Jan. 22, 2013 — Effort fails to have marijuana reclassified as a federal Schedule 2 drug.
?Jan. 24, 2013 — Well Greens dispensary in Holly is raided.
?Feb. 5, 2013 — Colorado U.S. Rep. Jared Polis introduces Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013. The act has not been approved by the Congress.
?Feb. 8, 2013 — Michigan Supreme Court rules Michigan’s medical marijuana law doesn’t allow dispensaries or unrestricted retail sales of marijuana.
?April 1, 2013 — Michigan Public Act 512 takes effect and provides privilege from arrest only if registered patients/caregivers present valid registration cards and a valid drivers license or government ID.
?April 1, 2013 — Michigan Public Act 514 takes effect and clarifies portions of the Michigan medical marijuana law.
?Oct. 16, 2013 — Michigan Senate Bill 626 introduced to decriminalize possession of an ounce or less of marijuana in certain circumstances.
?Dec. 12, 2013 — Michigan House passes House Bill 4271 to provide that criminal, civil or other sanctions would not apply to a medical marijuana provisioning center, and HB 5104 to allow marijuana-infused products. Pending in the state Senate.
?March 31, 2014 — Michigan Public Act 268 of 2013 enacted to classify marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug for the purposes of treating debilitating medical conditions.
In late January 2013, police busted Well Greens medical marijuana business in Holly operated by Pete Trzos. They also raided his parents’ home in Keego Harbor, where he was staying.
More shocking than the late January raid on his Keego Harbor home, Phil Trzos, Pete’s father, learned he had to put down a deposit on the property that police had confiscated if he hoped to get it back at the end of the court case against his son.
Confiscated in the raid were firearms belonging to both Phil and Pete Trzos. Phil Trzos said his firearms have not been returned, even though he wasn’t charged with any crime.
“Why do they have my stuff? Just because they can and they’re showing me that, I think,” he said in early interviews with The Oakland Press.
In fairness, Trzos says his deposit was returned before the case against his son went to court.
However, the practice of asset forfeiture raises many questions.
Prosecutors say civil forfeiture laws are a major tool in the fight against drugs. But critics say those powers go too far in many states, including Michigan, and create an incentive for police to confiscate property to fund their operations.
The Institute for Justice, in its investigation “Policing for Profit,” says people can lose their cash, cars, homes and property without ever being charged with a crime.
The Oakland County’s Sheriff’s Office agrees that is indeed the case under federal and state forfeiture laws.
Wrote then-Lt. Joe Quisenberry of the Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Team via email in response to questions from The Oakland Press in spring 2013: “In essence, the government can seize and forfeit proceeds or property used to facilitate drug traffickers. These are civil actions that do not require personal or criminal charges or convictions.”
Quisenberry, now a captain, outlined the process this way:
? When a law enforcement agency seizes property, pursuant to an investigation, a civil notice is given to the property owner of the government’s intent to forfeit.
? If the owner wishes to contest the seizure, he must post a bond that requires the agency to pursue a civil circuit court forfeiture case.
? If the owner does not post the bond, the seized property is administratively forfeited without court action.
? Confiscated property is always kept unless a consent agreement or court order is issued.
? All forfeited property is then sold via auction and put into a forfeiture account to be shared by the participating NET agencies.
The Institute for Justice study concluded that forfeitures across Michigan amounted to $149 million over an eight-year period between 2000 and 2008.
For Oakland County’s Narcotics Enforcement Team, forfeitures totaled $924,358.06 in 2012. That total included $469,167.19 in cash, a share of federal forfeitures totaling $174,676.52, and 140 vehicles seized in drug raids and auctioned for $215,014.35, according to numbers provided by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.
In 2013, NET operations cost $1,191,597.40. Forfeitures in property and cash seized totaled $834,519.97.
Drugs of any kind that are seized are burned in the county’s incinerator, says the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.
While marijuana has grabbed a lot of attention because of Michigan’s medical marijuana act and the vagueness that has surrounded its implementation, it’s not the No. 1 drug problem in Oakland County, said Quisenberry.
“The No. 1 drug threat in southeast Michigan is prescription drug abuse,” he said. “Marijuana continues to be the most readily available illegal drug and, because of the medical marijuana issue, it has consumed a lot of our efforts, but I would not characterize it as our No. 1 problem.
“Crack cocaine, cocaine, heroin, Ecstasy and other synthetic drugs all are threats to southeast Michigan, and NET continually investigates cases involving these drugs,” he said.
The county’s Narcotics Enforcement Team was formed in 1971, a multi-jurisdictional operation that in 2013 included the sheriff’s office, deputies from the sheriff’s office substations in Rochester Hills and Pontiac, plus police officers from Bloomfield Township, Farmington Hills, Lathrup Village, Madison Heights, Rochester, Royal Oak, Southfield, Waterford, West Bloomfield and White Lake.
NET operates on a $1.2 million budget, with the county providing office space, computers, cars and other equipment. The local police or substations provide the police officers and their weapons. Money from forfeitures is divided and sent back to the participating communities.
How many police participate and how they’re deployed isn’t clear.
“That’s confidential under FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), we don’t have to say how we deploy our resources,” said Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe.
However, Oakland County rejects the notion that forfeitures are pursued to fund NET.
“It’s not about making money; this is not an enterprise system; it’s not a profit-making business,” said McCabe. “The sheriff has always said he’s not in the business to make money. This isn’t a profit center.”
But, he added, “There are other places outside Oakland County that take a different approach than we do.”
Forfeitures related to medical marijuana were negligible in 2013, McCabe said early this year.
“The amount from medical marijuana was very small to nonexistent as such dispensaries were mostly out of business in Oakland County in 2013.”
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