Pretending to be a medical marijuana patient just got a lot easier for undercover narcotics officers in Michigan. A case from Port Huron features a unique twist; police just "borrowed" a medical marijuana card from a friend and made a marijuana purchase.
Or did the St. Clair County Sheriff's undercover officer take the card out of the evidence file from another case? A hearing on Monday will reveal the details- and if the ill-gotten card will be allowed to remain a part of the case against Don and Diane Ferguson.
WHY USE A FAKE CARD ANYWAY?
Police pretend to be legitimate patients to trick- lawyers say, entrap- licensed and registered medical marijuana caregivers into transferring marijuana to someone they believe is sick for the purpose of alleviating their illness and symptoms. The trickery is mandatory, because the caregivers are not like drug dealers; these registered medical marijuana providers are so strict with their policies that, without proof that you are a patient, you won't get anything from them.
"If people are so selective as to refuse to transfer marijuana to anyone not enrolled in the medical marijuana program, aren't they behaving in a responsible way?" asked Genesee County activist and local elected official Eric Gunnels. "Shouldn't police focus that effort on the people that sell hard drugs and don't care who is buying it?"
Over the last five years police in Michigan have reportedly created their own fake medical marijuana cards, they have altered legally-obtained cards and they have lied to doctors and used false identities to have Michigan's Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) issue bogus medical marijuana identification cards straight from the government press.
"A classic tale of wasted resources. Police spending the time and effort to entrap people who are selective and compassionate and demonstrably not posing a risk to the health and safety of the community," observed Jamie Lowell of the Michigan chapter of Americans for Safe Access and Ypsilanti's 3rd Coast Compassion.
"To create crimes by using another person's card falsely is the opposite of what the voters intended when they passed the MMMA," stated Southfield attorney Michael Komorn. Regarding patients and caregivers trapped by law enforcement over the years through the use of the misrepresentation of identity, he said, "This is a category of individual that is so different than those the law was intended to punish."
THE 'JOE CARD'
In the Ferguson case, the undercover officer convinced Don Ferguson that he was a patient. After marijuana was allegedly transferred Don was arrested and search warrants were issued for his home, where Diane lay sleeping. It was the fraudulent representation of that card by the undercover that created Don's belief in the legality of his alleged actions.
"(The undercover officer) has been on the stand testifying about the card twice," said Diane Ferguson, in an exclusive interview with The Compassion Chronicles. The card was issued to a person whose first name is Joe, and the questionably-obtained card has been referred to as the 'Joe card' by the defendants.
"On the stand all he would say was, I borrowed it from a friend," Diane said. "He admitted twice on the stand that he used this card."
The name on the card seems to match the name of a person who was ensnared in a drug raid executed by the same Sheriff's office earlier that month. That case is being argued by Komorn.
"The St. Clair County Sheriff Deputy has been using this 'Joe card' to ensnare other patients and caregivers into doing transactions," Komorn said.
"I think it's fair to say that, if the undercover officer and the raid victim were "friends," as he has indicated in court proceedings, their relationship may be hitting a rocky point just about now," attorney Jeff Frazier observed.
PTSD AND PENDING COURT PROCEDURES
According to the Fergusons, the St. Clair Prosecutor's Office sent a notice of in limne procedure for Monday to remove the use of the card from the court proceedings. The court has scheduled jury selection proceedings in the criminal case against the Fergusons for Tuesday, January 6th.
Having the questionable card removed from the evidence in the Ferguson case may halt the inquiries into how it was obtained and if its use in this manner is lawful, but Komorn questions this "manipulation of evidence."
In an odd twist, Ann Arbor attorney Jim Wines informed the Fergusons that he intends to withdraw from the case over a money issue and that request may be brought before Judge Michael West during one of the two court dates.
Regardless of the decisions Judge West and the potential jury may arrive at, punishment has already been dealt to the Fergusons. They are selling everything precious to them to cover attorney's fees, including a treasured motorcycle and a Ford truck.
Beyond the financial, the sting of being raided hits home even before charges are brought. Diane Ferguson told TCC that her opinion of law enforcement has been forever altered- and not for the better.
"I have had the police help me so much through my lifetime. I always trusted them before. Never again."
Attorney Komorn has heard this many times from defendants. "The fears, the emotions, seeing your house ripped apart. These are images that will never go out of someone's mind."
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is caused by shocking, traumatic events in one's lifetime that leave them mentally scarred and physically responsive to situations of a similar nature. Diane Ferguson has all the classic symptoms of the ailment.
"Every night when it gets dark I get shaking attacks," Ferguson said. "They busted in my house in the dark. They busted in with guns. They busted up the house right in front of me. "
Her voice shook as she said, "How can you live with this every day, and still trust them? You can't."
COURT SUPPORT NEEDED- JURY SELECTION PROCEEDING
for Don and Diane Ferguson
January 6 9am
St Clair County 31st circuit ct
Circuit Court Judge Michael West, room 3300
201 McMorran Blvd., Port Huron 48060