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Pot Supporter's Arrest May Void Legalization Vote

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DETROIT -- A man lauded by supporters of marijuana legalization for going door-to-door this summer on behalf of a ballot question to legalize pot in a Michigan town faces felony charges of selling the drug.

The arrest of Andrew Cissell, 25, on five counts of marijuana delivery could invalidate the election results this fall, said Cherilynn Brown, city clerk for the Detroit suburb of Ferndale.

"It's going to be on the ballots — they've already been printed," Brown said Thursday.

Whether the votes count will depend on rulings by county election authorities and county prosecutors, Brown said. The issue, she said, is that officials don't know whether Cissell was a Ferndale resident when he circulated and filed the petitions.

Brown said Cissell registered a Ferndale address at a Secretary of State branch office June 10 and started collecting signatures two days later. Ferndale Police Chief Tim Collins said evidence in the marijuana delivery investigation showed Cissell lived mainly in an Oak Park home that he owns.

Cissell, who was released Wednesday from the Oakland County Jail following his arrest Sept. 9, said only that he'd hired an attorney.

"To be honest with you, at this current point in time, me and my lawyer can't say anything," he said Thursday.

The Oakland County Prosecutor's Office deferred questions about the election to the county clerk's office, where an election official said he was unable to comment.

The Ferndale ballot proposal would amend the city code to allow anyone 21 or older "to possess, use or transfer" up to an ounce of marijuana on private property, according to the ballot language. Cissell had turned in enough signed petitions July 30 to get the issue on the ballot.

At the time, he said he planned to run for state representative next year in the district that covers Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge and Huntington Woods, aiming to make marijuana legalization a statewide issue.

Cissell's arrest followed an investigation by the Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Team, Collins said.

An informant made three purchases of marijuana at Cissell's Oak Park home, Collins said. Police raided that home, another Oak Park home where Cissell had belongings and his Ferndale address, finding marijuana growing outside and inside the Oak Park homes, Collins said.

Cissell faces up to five years in prison for each of the charges. He is a state-registered medical-marijuana user and caregiver, but when arrested, he had more marijuana in his possession than the state medical marijuana act allows, Collins said.

Cissell's arrest was called disappointing but not a setback for those who want to see an end to marijuana arrests and investigative raids.

"This issue is going to win overwhelmingly" among Ferndale voters, said Tim Beck, 61, of Detroit, who helped fund the petition campaign on behalf of the Safer Michigan Coalition. The group has put identical proposals on ballots in Jackson and Lansing.

"Oakland County never would've investigated this young man if he hadn't been the one to get this on the ballot," Beck said. "I think the voters of Ferndale are going to reject this kind of bullying by the Oakland County sheriff."



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