The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act and federal law are irreconcilable in ways that are completely baffling – attorney James Brady.
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Despite the conflict between Michigan’s medical marijuana law and federal prohibition of the drug, more than 130,000 state residents have registered for medical marijuana and the state has reaped millions in licensing fees.
Grand Rapids attorney James Brady said the law, for many, “has been well accepted and is highly successful.”
Then, there are cases involving people like Dennis James Forsberg.
The 59-year-old Lansing man, who is described as a family man and respected businessman and community leader, was sentenced Tuesday, April 22, by U.S. District Judge Janet Neff to three years in federal prison for his role in a marijuana-growing operation.
“The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act and federal law are irreconcilable in ways that are completely baffling,” Brady wrote.
“The law “has been a complete disaster for people such as Dennis Forsberg, who accepted at face value the imprimatur of legality created by the MMA and the state’s licensing and regulation program, paid the state their various fees, and began growing medical marijuana.
“The state of Michigan websites dealing with medical marijuana carry no warnings that the growth of medical marijuana is still not allowed under federal law, and many people unfamiliar with the interrelationship of state and federal law have fallen into the trap of thinking state approval and licensing under the MMA had to mean that growing medical marijuana in compliance with the state law was safe to do.
“How could the state of Michigan issue licenses and collect fees purporting to allow and even encourage Michiganians to engage in conduct that exposed them to federal criminal prosecution? Such a thing would make no sense to most reasonable people.”
Brady added: “Like many others who have been caught up in this mess, Dennis Forsberg (as well as the other defendants in this case) pursued what appeared to him to be a legitimate business opportunity under Michigan law.”
Forsberg pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture 100 plants or more, manufacture 100 plants or more, and manufacture of 100 plants or more within 1,000 feet of a school.
The magistrate judge who accepted his guilty pleas said Forsberg was snared by the conflict in state and federal laws.
“And for what it’s worth, I think this conflict in (state and federal) law has been somewhat disastrous in this state,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Ellen Carmody said, according to a transcript of the Dec.12, 2012, hearing.
“I did not anticipate that. But I think it has been. And you got caught in the middle of it, Mr. Forsberg.”
Forsberg provided rental space for growing of medical marijuana and cash for start-up costs. He believed that one of those involved in the operation had met with an attorney and police to make sure the set-up was legal, Brady said.
Forsberg made sure the business plans were filed. He also met with the police chief of Meridian Township to make sure he would be in compliance, Brady wrote in the lawsuit.
“Dennis even offered to leave a set of keys to the facilities with Chief (Dave) Hall, so that Hall could inspect the buildings at any time.”
Brady said Forsberg also spoke with an Okemos Public Schools leader and the Alaiedon Township board.
“These are not the actions of a person who thought he was violating any law,” Brady wrote. “Far from hiding his activities, Dennis was bending over backward, going out of his way to address and allay any concerns that anyone in the community could possibly have about the presence of what he thought would be a lawful medical marijuana business in the neighborhood,” Brady wrote.
He considered the venture, which resulted in six other arrests, when his real-estate and construction business was slowed by the recession.
More than 50 people wrote letters on his behalf. He wrote one, too.
“This was a terrible mistake on my part. It will never happen again.”
John Agar covers crime for MLive/Grand Rapids Press E-mail John Agar: [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ReporterJAgar
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