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Michael Komorn

Michigan Medical Marijuana dispensary owner sentenced in federal court

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http://www.upmatters.com/news/local-news/marijuana-distributer-sentenced-in-federal-court/874876738

 

Marijuana distributer sentenced in federal court

MARQUETTE - Spencer Troy Ward, age 56, formerly of Bruce Crossing, Michigan, was sentenced to 151 months (12 years, 7 months) in prison for his involvement in a marijuana production and distribution conspiracy that Ward led in Ontonagon, Iron and Marquette Counties announced U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge.

U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney also ordered Ward to pay the government $475,254.30, which constituted the gross proceeds of his illegal sales of marijuana. In addition, the Judge ordered the forfeiture of Ward’s 80-acre farm, which Ward used to manufacture marijuana.

Ward came to the attention of a Special Agent from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and detectives from the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team (UPSET) in 2014, after law enforcement officers from the Lac Vieux Desert (LVD) reservation near Watersmeet, MI reported that marijuana produced and sold by Ward was making its way onto the LVD reservation.

Investigators from BIA and UPSET discovered that Ward and his associates were growing marijuana at Ward’s farm and operating marijuana stores in Watersmeet, Iron River and Marquette. Ward also had plans to open another marijuana store in Houghton. BIA and UPSET executed search warrants at Ward’s farm and the stores in February 2016, and found a largescale, sophisticated grow operation that contained 186 marijuana plants in various stages of growth, and more than 100 pounds of processed marijuana. 

Records seized from the stores showed that Ward and his associates sold at least $475,254.30 worth of marijuana, at $250 per ounce, or $4,000 per pound. Employee records at Ward’s farm indicated that Ward used more than 40 individuals to assist him with the marijuana production operation.

During the search of Ward’s farm, investigators located a large greenhouse that was not in use because it was winter. But BIA and UPSET found photos and video recordings showing immense plants in the greenhouse the summer before. 

Ward was initially arrested on state charges and then transferred to federal custody in March 2016. Investigators then found that after Ward was released on bond, he had organized another conspiracy to grow and sell marijuana in Ontonagon County during the summer of 2016.

As a result, Ward was arrested and remained in federal custody for the remainder of his case. Judge Maloney found that Ward’s criminal conduct while on bond was one of several aggravating factors that justified Ward’s long prison sentence. Judge Maloney also noted that Ward was convicted of transporting 76 kilograms (167 lbs) of marijuana in the State of Missouri in 1999. The Judge found that Ward’s prior criminal record was another aggravating factor.

The evidence in the case also showed that Ward used some of the bureaucratic aspects of 
Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act to convince police and potential employees that his activities
were legal. In Judge Maloney’s view, Ward’s efforts to justify his conduct under the Michigan
Medical Marijuana Act was another aggravating factor that justified a long sentence.

Finally, Judge Maloney found that Ward had likely lured otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminal conduct by assuring them that his activities were legal when, in fact, his marijuana production and sales were illegal under both state and federal.

Also convicted as part of the Ward’s case were:

  • Sharon Marie Peltola, age 54, formerly of Bruce Crossing, sentenced to 30 months in federal prison;
  • Robert Harley Stapleton, age 29, formerly of Gwinn, MI, sentenced to 12 months and 1 day in federal prison;
  • Craig Robert Asikainen, age 38, formerly of Ishpeming, MI, sentenced to 18 months in federal prison;
  • Byron Hugh Adams, age 41, formerly of Ewen, MI, sentenced to 18 months in federal prison;
  • Tracy Eve LaMarch, age 39, formerly of Gladstone, MI, sentenced to 4 months in federal prison;
  • Peter John Jousma, formerly of Bruce Crossing, convicted of manufacturing marijuana in violation of Michigan law in Ontonagon County.

U.S. Attorney Birge noted, “Growing, selling, and possessing marijuana is a violation of
federal law. Ward is simply a drug dealer, albeit a large-scale grower and distributor of
marijuana in the U.P. His claim that he was merely a medical marijuana provider was a thinly
veiled ruse and an abuse of Michigan’s medical marijuana laws. Much like other previously
convicted drug dealers, Mr. Ward will have 151 months to atone for his crimes.” 

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i want to say why did he try to reopen after being told no?

i feel so much compassion for these folks but i also cant help but wonder why he got himself and all these other people into so much trouble?  was it money motivation or did he truly try to connect patients to quality cannabis at super affordable prices?

he opened back up several times after being told not to.... what motivates a person to do such a thing? 

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what motivates a person to do such a thing?

 

It's a rush to give people what they want and need. And the need is huge because of BS prohibition. What 'a person' needs to understand is that you can help more people longer if you stay under the radar. Flopping yourself out there on a street corner under a flashy sign only makes your longevity shorter. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread .....

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the first raid was by the state, not feds.

Ward was initially arrested on state charges and then transferred to federal custody in March 2016. Investigators then found that after Ward was released on bond, he had organized another conspiracy to grow and sell marijuana in Ontonagon County during the summer of 2016.

 

the article is not clear but i'd guess that he didnt know he was on the fed radar at all. he thought he could use the mmma as a defense in state court against state police.

 

which is probably why they pushed the case into federal custody.

hard to tell from the info we have. so we have to go with what police do historically. do police historically take medical marijuana cases and send them to the feds to prosecute when they know they cant win in state court? yes? is that what happened here ? who can say.

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23 minutes ago, mibrains said:

wow..

rest i can't believe how much i agree with you lately LOL...

well said.

Thanks. Back in the day when I was young and inexperienced I thought I would either get rich or busted helping people with cannabis. I eventually realized that if you do it right you get neither. With the grace of God you help a lot of people. We all have different paths to follow and different loads to bear. 

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15 minutes ago, t-pain said:

the first raid was by the state, not feds.

Ward was initially arrested on state charges and then transferred to federal custody in March 2016. Investigators then found that after Ward was released on bond, he had organized another conspiracy to grow and sell marijuana in Ontonagon County during the summer of 2016.

 

the article is not clear but i'd guess that he didnt know he was on the fed radar at all. he thought he could use the mmma as a defense in state court against state police.

 

which is probably why they pushed the case into federal custody.

hard to tell from the info we have. so we have to go with what police do historically. do police historically take medical marijuana cases and send them to the feds to prosecute when they know they cant win in state court? yes? is that what happened here ? who can say.

I remember when they tried that with the guy smoking in the casino parking lot. But the fed asked to see the guys card and then they let him go. The next time they caught someone smoking in the lot they got the local sheriff and prosecutor to press charges. 

If you are way outside State rules the feds will prosecute. But if you are following the rules they don't bother. 

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2 minutes ago, Restorium2 said:

I remember when they tried that with the guy smoking in the casino parking lot. But the fed asked to see the guys card and then they let him go. The next time they caught someone smoking in the lot they got the local sheriff and prosecutor to press charges. 

If you are way outside State rules the feds will prosecute. But if you are following the rules they don't bother. 

Just FYI, new fed scam they are running is $280 dollar tickets to patients for marijuana use or possession on public land. We've had three of these in the past year, including one today. When I was talking with the Bay City federal court yesterday regarding the case, the clerk said they had a bunch of these marijuana tickets on the docket for this morning.

Just remember, even though it seems really private out in the woods or on your boat, it may be technically public, so don't get caught smoking - you lose all protections under the act for smoking in a public place because of section 7(b). You are covered for possession and other kinds of use.

On these tickets, the narrative usually goes something like this "USFS Ranger Smith spotted two males in a boat smoking what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette." It continues with a flagging down or boarding, a full shakedown with threats and lies like "federal law doesn't recognize state laws about medical use," seizure of the possessed marijuana, and a ticket like this.

Though it has not yet been fully litigated, at this time, patients and caregivers are protected for medical use even under federal law, as long as they are in compliance with their State Act.

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Law enforcement can't make a case or they would. That's why we have all these illegal dispensaries running in the State. Like Prosecutor Leyton said, it takes a lot of investigating to prove a dispensary isn't just a bunch of caregivers servicing their 5 registered patients. He's a good public servant and understands that there are bigger problems in his area and doesn't want his investigators tied up chasing people, not hurting anyone, selling cannabis to patients. 

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1 minute ago, zapatosunidos said:

Just FYI, new fed scam they are running is $280 dollar tickets to patients for marijuana use or possession on public land. We've had three of these in the past year, including one today. When I was talking with the Bay City federal court yesterday regarding the case, the clerk said they had a bunch of these marijuana tickets on the docket for this morning.

Just remember, even though it seems really private out in the woods or on your boat, it may be technically public, so don't get caught smoking - you lose all protections under the act for smoking in a public place because of section 7(b). You are covered for possession and other kinds of use.

On these tickets, the narrative usually goes something like this "USFS Ranger Smith spotted two males in a boat smoking what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette." It continues with a flagging down or boarding, a full shakedown with threats and lies like "federal law doesn't recognize state laws about medical use," seizure of the possessed marijuana, and a ticket like this.

Though it has not yet been fully litigated, at this time, patients and caregivers are protected for medical use even under federal law, as long as they are in compliance with their State Act.

Great info. Thanks.

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12 hours ago, braunstein said:

12 years for a plant is unjust and immoral.  Great waste of resources LEO.

What about the hundreds of untested rape kits.  What about human trafficking?  What about REAL crime which has real victims??

https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2016/01/28/michigan-human-trafficking-cases/79453648/

 

Silly, REAL crime doesn't get the state REAL ESTATE. In this case 80 acres and a half million dollar fine.

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