SWAT’s Up: Michigan Cops Arrest and Charge Ganja Grandmother

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Some days in Michigan, it’s hard to remember that we’re making progress. Even as public opinion has turned against the War on Drugs, law enforcement continues to crack down on cannabis users and growers, including licensed growers and caregivers. Given the economic condition of our state, it is beyond frustrating to see copious police resources being used to enforce cannabis prohibition while violent crime in most Michigan cities is well above what is normal for similarly-sized cities in other states.

Here’s an example of what is clearly an excellent use of police force: a SWAT-style paramilitary force of local police officers in Cass County smashed into a residence back in January. They were armed with rifles and were wearing masks. They forced a grandmother with COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as severely compromised lung/respiratory function) to lay on the floor, separated from her oxygen machine. In fact, the armed officers would eventually force the very sick Carol Allison to crawl across the floor to access the oxygen she required. The brute squad also held a gun to the head of Carol’s custodial grandson, the one hundred and thirty pound 16-year-old son of the man they were there to arrest.

That man, Jaime Allison, may have a bit of a mild criminal past, but he has never posed a threat to his community. Despite the lack of a history of violence, local police treated him like a gang member with a cache of weapons. Most of his past charges have been cannabis-related, and none of them should preclude Jaime from asserting a medical marijuana affirmative defense in court. The truth is, he should never have been charged with a crime to begin with after the raid. When law enforcement saw that they had far less weight of dried plant matter than than what is legally allowed and fewer plants as well, all secured as required within separate locked grow rooms (as was confirmed by the police report), they should have offered a very sincere mea culpa and respected the immunity clause in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

Theoretically, the law is meant protect those in compliance with from even being arrested. Jaime and Carol were both arrested and have been charged with two charges of delivery/manufacture of marijuana, maintaining a drug house, and possession of marijuana. All of these cannabis charges should in theory be protected against by both Carol’s and Jaime’s status as medical marijuana patients and caregivers, legally registered with the state. The police report indicates that the officers at the house were aware of their status as patients and caregivers and were provided with documentation at the time of the raid, but chose to hand the case over to the county prosecutor anyway. The police also seized their growing equipment

Jaime was also charged with stalking, and police reports indicate that the raid on the Allison residence was the result of a complaint by a former lover. While it is important for law enforcement to act on all reports of dangerous behavior such as possible stalking, this issue should have been addressed separately from the cannabis cultivation, which in theory was legal. The claims of stalking were essentially thrown out once Jaime was able to establish that the two did have a consensual relationship. The court terminated the PPO against Jaime because of the evidence presented, but Jaime is still facing some very serious cannabis charges.

Because they couldn’t afford an attorney, Jaime and Carol were forced to accept representation by a public defender. Like other trials involving public defenders in Michigan, it already seems like their representation is not correctly pursuing a medical cannabis defense, but the Allisons are left with few options. Representing yourself in court, especially in a criminal trial, is incredibly dangerous, no matter how glamorous movies or television shows make it look. There is a saying about self-representation: “The man who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client.” Unfortunately, the saying could just as reasonably go “the man who allows someone who graduated at the bottom of his class to act as his attorney has a fool for an attorney.”

This is highlighted by the fact that when Carol told their court-appointed attorney about her medical use of cannabis (remember, she has COPD, a serious, debilitating, and often painful medical condition), he essentially laughed at her. Not only has he admitted that he is not familiar with the proper process for claiming and supporting a medical marijuana defense, he doesn’t believe in medical marijuana. Apparently the lawyer compared the medical use of cannabis to calling a doughnut a medical device. In a meeting with at least three people besides the accused, he said something along the lines of “Just because you can rub it on your genitals and cause an erection doesn’t mean the doughnut really is medical.” It’s hard to believe the Allisons are getting adequate representation when the lawyer involved doesn’t even respect Michigan law.

Because of her counsel and the threat of several serious felony drug charges, Carol has been backed into a corner and plans to accept a plea bargain despite her legal rights to grow the plants found on her property. She is being treated somewhat leniently, having been offered a plea that includes only 6 months probation and no time in prison. Out of fear of losing her house and possibly custody of her grandson, she will most likely accept the deal. Jaime is still waiting for his next day in court and has not received any reasonable plea offers.

You can help Jaime and his mother Carol by donating at Jaime’s GoFundMe page, where he is collecting funds to cover an attorney’s retainer fee. As it stands, he is waiting for his next court date under the counsel of a public defender who did not assert his medical cannabis defense via any motions or even verbally at the preliminary examination wherein Jaime was charged.