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Man: Pot Caregivers Unfairly Targeted

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A Brighton Township man who said he was in compliance with the medical marijuana law believes the Livingston County prosecutor's office is inappropriately charging people like him.

Steve Yager, 33, also questions why officers with the Livingston and Washtenaw Narcotics Enforcement Team are targeting medical marijuana caregivers rather than going after the drug dealers providing heroin in the county.

"I'm horrified," Yager said. "The only reason I was doing what I was doing is because the state of Michigan tells me I could. I've never broken the law in my life, and now they are literally trying to ruin it because they don't like the law.

"He wants to eradicate this from his county," Yager added about Livingston County Prosecutor David Morse. "He does not believe in it; he doesn't believe in the fundamental of this – that it's medicine."

Morse was not available for comment.

However, LAWNET supervisor Detective 1st Lt. Wynonia Sturdivant said, "As long as a person is in compliance with the law, there are no issues."

She declined to say how Yager and co-defendant Jonathan Rominski, 34, who also is a card-carrying medical marijuana caregiver, violated the law, citing the ongoing prosecution.

Yager and Rominski, of Berkley, were each charged in May with one count of delivery or manufacture of marijuana after LAWNET officers seized nearly 80 marijuana plants from Yager's home in January. The men face a preliminary exam Wednesday before Judge L. Suzanne Geddis.

Yager's attorney, Michael Komorn, said licensed caregivers and licensed users are not subject to state arrest or prosecution if they follow the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act's guidelines. He said Yager and Rominski followed the law.

"Their big beef is that (Yager) and another person, who had under their plant count in a locked, enclosed facility, combined them," Komorn said. "(Prosecutors) say they can't combine them. Show me where that's in the law."

Komorn said Livingston and Oakland county prosecutors' offices are "leading the charge" to disregard the medical marijuana act voted into law by a referendum in 2008. He said judges – who hold a juris doctorate degree and not a medical degree – are disregarding it as well and ordering patients not to use their medicine while on bond, something they do not do to people prescribed addictive drugs such as Vicodin.

"This is running rampant on the bench throughout the state," he said. "They don't like marijuana; they don't accept the fact it's a legitimate medicine."

Road to marijuana

Yager, a self-employed transportation broker, is a Brighton High School graduate whose lifestyle began to change in 2005 when he began experiencing "excruciating back pain" due to multiple discs that are out of place, which he said has led to "bad nerve pain" on a daily basis.

Yager sought medical treatment, but each pain medication left him with "horrible side effects" that he said included mood swings, nausea, lack of appetite and constipation. Physical therapy also did not help.

The pain and side effects from the medication were so unbearable, Yager said, that he turned down an all-expense-paid trip to Hawaii because he feared being unable to handle the airplane ride.

Yager once again sought his physician's medical advice.

"I told him I needed to find an alternative – a pain management that could get me through the pain, but not use these horrible painkillers," he said.

When Yager's physician suggested medical marijuana, Yager said he was hesitant, but willing to try it if it alleviated the pain.

Yager, who has no criminal history, said he had no idea where or how to find a caregiver. He wondered if he could become his own caregiver.

Yager sought legal counsel, hoping to learn more about the state's medical marijuana law and what he needed to do to be compliant.

The law states caregivers can grow up to 12 plants per patient for a maximum of five patients, and have a maximum of 2.5 ounces of marijuana on hand for each patient. The marijuana must be stored in a locked facility.

"I became a caregiver because I saw a need," Yager said. "How do these people find medicine? I did it because the law changed and there were people who needed it. ... I have a card from the state of Michigan that says it's OK."

Yager, who had four patients in addition to himself, is a single man who lives in a five-bedroom, three-bathroom home, so he knew he had the room to grow marijuana. He also had a locked facility – his basement has two doors that lock, both requiring a key for entry.

As far as Yager could tell, he was compliant with the law and began growing marijuana. He said he meticulously labeled each jar and plant of marijuana so he knew which patient the plant was for and to keep track that he was not exceeding the amount required under the law.

Then a friend approached him. The friend, also a registered caregiver, was unable to continue growing marijuana at his home because it made his live-in girlfriend sick, Yager said. The friend, identified as Rominski, asked if he could store it at Yager's home.

Yager said yes, and that meant there were a combined total of less than 80 marijuana plants in Yager's home, belonging to two caregivers who were serving eight patients – well below the 96 plants the law would allow, his attorney, Komorn, said.

"I didn't tell anybody; I kept it private," Yager said. "There's still a stigma attached to medical marijuana, and I was private about it."

The search, seizure

On Jan. 15, Yager's status as a medical marijuana patient and caregiver became public when LAWNET officers searched his home.

Yager said he gave permission for the search only after officers incorrectly concluded he had a "huge marijuana-grow operation" inside his home and "1,000 plants."

Yager told the officers that he was a caregiver and he showed them the appropriate papers, which he said seemed to confuse the officers.

"They looked at it and didn't know what to do," Yager said. "It was almost like it was in Chinese."

Yager said he unlocked both doors to the basement to show the LAWNET officers the marijuana and that in the middle of the incident, one officer told him that he didn't know what to do.

"He said two things were going to happen: 'Either we walk out of there and leave you alone or, if the prosecutor says take your stuff, we're going to take your stuff,' " Yager said.

Sturdivant said LAWNET officers are well versed in the medical marijuana law and know how to apply it.

"I don't believe there was any confusion, but because the medical marijuana law is new ... what they did was call the prosecutor's office and consulted with the prosecutor's office prior to making the seizure," she said.

Yager said following that conversation, the officer told him the prosecutor ordered LAWNET to seize the marijuana because "we need to examine it for further evidence."

"They said we have to send the marijuana to the lab to make sure it's marijuana, which is the dumbest thing I ever heard. I told them it's marijuana," Yager said. "I honestly didn't believe I was going to get charged, and now I'm being charged with this. It's insane to me."

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: livingstondaily.com
Author: Lisa Roose-Church
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: livingstondaily.com
Website: Man: Pot caregivers unfairly targeted
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