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.former Ferndale Mayor Testifies In Medical Marijuana Entrapment Hearing

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PONTIAC — Oakland County Commissioner Craig Covey, former mayor of Ferndale, took the Fifth Amendment several times Thursday in order not to incriminate himself during a medical marijuana entrapment hearing.


Covey, D-Ferndale, had been called to testify on both Tuesday and Thursday during a hearing for an Jason Van Sickle, an Emmett, Mich., man charged with one count of delivering and manufacturing of marijuana during a 2010 Ferndale incident. Testimony was heard in Oakland County Circuit Court before Judge Daniel Patrick O’Brien. Emmett is in St. Clair County.


Before Covey began to testify Tuesday, he said Assistant Prosecutor Beth Hand spoke in court of information in a recent medical marijuana-related memo issued by the U.S. Justice Department.


That memo’s section reads, “Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law.”


Covey said when he heard that self-incrimination was a possibility he asked to meet with an attorney before speaking.


“I then met with the Ferndale city attorney and was advised not to discuss anything other than legislative processes,” Covey said.


In Thursday’s hearing, Covey took the Fifth when asked if he had ever visited Clinical Relief.


When shown a story with a photo about Clinical Relief in a daily newspaper, and asked if it was his photo, he said, “I decline to answer.”


Covey did answer other questions, such as one from Van Sickle’s defense attorney Jim Rasor: “What did you think were the benefits of medical marijuana?”


Covey said, “Providing medicine to qualified patients.”


Rasor had called Covey to the stand to discuss a medical marijuana facility in Ferndale called Clinical Relief.


“I thought he (Covey) was being threatened by the assistant prosecutor, as though he was some sort of criminal,” Rasor said.


Paul Walton, chief assistant prosecutor, said Covey was the first government official to take the stand in medical marijuana cases in Oakland County.


“We have a constitutional mandate if someone may incriminate themselves, we have an ethical obligation to inform them or their attorney that they could incriminate themselves,” Walton said.


Walton said this incrimination announcement was nothing new, but had been presented before, including to Oakland County commissioners.


Van Sickle, 38, a medical marijuana patient, is charged in selling marijuana, a four-year felony that also carries a $20,000 fine. Court records indicate he went to the Clinical Relief medical marijuana facility on July 26, 2010.


“He was an innocent bystander,” said Rasor, a Royal Oak attorney.


“He drove 90 miles to bring his overage (extra marijuana he had grown) to transfer to another patient. Jason is allowed to transfer medical marijuana,” said Rasor, pointing to the state act which lists delivery and transfer among allowable activities.


Rasor said in a hearing in the case earlier this year that Van Sickle assumed undercover detectives, who had patient cards, were legitimate medical marijuana patients.


Rasor, who is upset that undercover police officers used forged medical marijuana cards to enter the clinic, said state statutes immunize bartenders from liability if someone presents a forged ID.


“Why is it fair to go into a licensed, register medical marijuana facility with fake IDs and arrest people who rely on those IDs?” he asked.


In court earlier this year, Hand said on the date in question, Van Sickle went outside of Clinical Relief with the detectives, got into his car with them, weighed marijuana on a scale and sold it to them for $50.


Van Sickle was charged separately after Aug. 25 drug task force raids that took place mainly in Ferndale and Waterford.


Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said earlier this week that the Supreme Court’s opinion is that regardless of what states enacted, the federal law which states marijuana is an illegal, controlled substance.


Rasor countered, saying, “If Jessica Cooper doesn’t like the (medical marijuana) law that the voters passed in 2008, then she needs to put on some comfortable shoes and go out and collect signatures and get that law overturned at the ballot box, not by abusing her authority and busting innocent people suffering from cancer, AIDS and all sorts of terrible things that the people of Michigan have determined medical marijuana helps.”


After the hearing had ended, Covey said this was his fourth time on the stand discussing medical marijuana.


“It’s so disappointing to me that our state once again, in my opinion, is way behind in progress on this issue,” he said.


“So many tens of thousands of dollars are being wasted on prosecutions and attorneys.


“One would think in a democracy that when the people vote, that would be the final say.”


Van Sickle’s case will continue in court.






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