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Cops Come To The Rescue Of Commerce Township Pot Grower

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Oakland County's top law enforcers have had their ups and downs with metro Detroit's tight-knit group of medical-marijuana users, advocates, lawyers and caregivers.

The county's undercover officers have busted many a dispensary and other facility catering to users of medicinal cannabis, including one in Ferndale that had the approval of a city council vote and the city attorney's opinion.

But Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard's deputies came to the rescue Sunday night after a 911 call from a medical-marijuana grower. The caller urgently asked for police help as he witnessed — on a security screen in his home — the sight of thieves breaking into his facility in Commerce Township, according to a police news release.

The result was that officers from three departments broke up the B&E and arrested a suspect, according to the release from the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

"It's nice to see that," said Matt Abel, executive director of Michigan NORML, the state chapter of a nationwide group that advocates legalizing marijuana.

The break-in occurred around 11:30 p.m. at 3295 Haggerty Road, a one-story medical-office building that fronts a small warehouse.

"Deputies arrived on scene and observed a van with no license plate backed up to a garage door," the report said. "A hole has been cut into the garage door. The van was blocked in by an employee whom the owner had called prior to calling 911. Deputies set up a perimeter. Deputies and a K-9 unit (police dog) searched the business but with negative results. Deputies located a large, black garage bag full of marijuana in the suspect vehicle. The van was impounded."

By 3 a.m. Monday, officers from Keego Harbor and West Bloomfield Township had collared the suspect and notified Oakland County. A county officer picked up the 33-year-old man from Sterling Heights, and he was jailed pending charges, the report said.

The Oakland County Sheriff's Office could not be reached for comment. But West Bloomfield Chief Michael Patton, whose officers played a limited but key role in police response, said the incident has important lessons for police.

"We know it's a concern — that locations identified even as legitimate growing facilities can be targeted by the criminal element" for break-ins, robberies and potential violence, he said.

The legal landscape is changing rapidly, marijuana advocates say. The U.S. Congress is expected shortly to pass the nation's giant annual appropriations bill, which contains a directive that defunds federal prosecutions of Americans who are in compliance with their own states' laws on medical marijuana.

And in Lansing, Michigan's lame-duck legislature is poised Thursday to pass a state law that would significantly broaden access to medical marijuana, allowing communities to decide whether to allow shops that would sell medicinal cannabis to state-licensed patients.

"When those things pass, it will be huge," said lawyer Abel.



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