The Michigan State Police and state attorney general’s office have been caught pressuring laboratory scientists to doctor drug test results in order to raise criminal charges against marijuana users from misdemeanor to felony status.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Michigan since 2008, but conservative officials are refusing to accept the change. Although medicinal, plant-based THC is permitted, synthetic forms of THC are still banned, and possession of synthetic THC is a felony. A recent investigation has shown that Michigan law enforcement officials were directing forensic scientists to report that the source of THC in marijuana edibles and oils was possibly synthetic, in an effort to bump the user’s sentence up from a misdemeanor (at most) to a felony.
A series of emails obtained via the Freedom Of Information Act reveal how the Michigan police, in cooperation with the state attorney general Bill Schuette and the attorney general’s office, directed the forensics experts over a series of months to report that the source of THC in edibles and oils was unknown, even though there was virtually no chance that it was synthetic. In some cases in which they were arresting licensed medical marijuana users, they needed the trumped up charges to justify the arrest, as shown in an email from a state police lieutenant: “We are encountering a significant amount of THC wax and oil. If we were to seized [sic] the wax/oil from a card carrying patient or caregiver and it comes back as marijuana, we will not have PC [probable cause] for the arrests.”
The incriminating documents show that under the leadership of the Republican attorney general, Michigan state police were arresting lawful users of medical marijuana, and then doctoring test results in order to charge peaceful citizens with felonies. According to a former ACLU attorney:
“The lab is intentionally reporting nonexistent felonies, and the prosecutors are going after medical marijuana patients with these lab reports that are fraudulent.”
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is a vocal opponent of marijuana legalization, saying “We should not go down this road of legalizing drugs,” and brazenly resisting the will of the people. It is reported that Schuette gives seminars to law enforcement officials advising them to arrest marijuana users and “let the courts decide whether a crime had been committed.”
Although the difference between natural and synthetic THC might seem minimal, it has had drastic legal consequences for people like Max Lorincz, a Michigan father who has been separated from his child for using hash oil in his home. Lorincz is a medical marijuana user who was arrested in 2014 after a local sheriff found hash oil on his kitchen counter. Lorincz refused to plead guilty to a misdemeanor drug charge because he was a medically licensed user, so prosecutors responded with a felony charge. Now his 6-year-old son is in foster care, and he gets only a few hours of visitation per week. “It’s been the worst year of me and my wife’s life,” said Lorincz.
Meanwhile, conservative lawmakers who claim they want a smaller government are unwilling to allow individuals to make the choice about marijuana for themselves. In Michigan, after a vote in favor of decriminalization, a Kent County public prosecutor said, “The voters do not have a right to adopt anything they want. Something doesn’t become valid because the voters voted for it.”
Conservatives will continue their moral crusade against marijuana even if it means breaking the law, ruining families, and interfering with scientific investigations.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.