Royal Oak Must Follow Medical Marijuana Law, ACLU Says in Letter

February 16, 2010

Detroit – In a letter today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan urged the Royal Oak Police Department and City Attorney to abide by the law and end its practice of seizing medical marijuana from registered patients.

“It has become apparent to us that Royal Oak’s actions reflect a misunderstanding of this new law,” said Dan Korobkin, ACLU of Michigan staff attorney. “The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act is clear: if you are a registered medical marijuana patient and you have less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana, it doesn’t matter where you got it from – it can’t be taken from you and you can’t be arrested.”

On January 11, Christopher Frizzo, a registered medical marijuana patient who suffers from the painful and debilitating symptoms of multiple sclerosis, was stopped by Royal Oak police for a routine traffic stop. Frizzo truthfully informed the officer that he was carrying a small amount of marijuana. Even though Frizzo showed the officer his registration card, the officer confiscated the medical marijuana because Frizzo’s supplier is not officially registered as his caregiver.

Following this incident, the Royal Oak Police Chief and City Attorney made statements to the Detroit Free Press and the Royal Oak Daily Tribune that they were obligated by law to confiscate the marijuana and that if it weren't for their empathy, Frizzo could have been arrested as well.

In its 3-page letter, the ACLU told city officials that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act clearly and directly prohibits such police action. The Act states: "Any marihuana . . . that is possessed, owned, or used in connection with the medical use of marihuana, as allowed under this act, or acts incidental to such use, shall not be seized or forfeited."

Furthermore the ACLU wrote, “We understand that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act marks a change in Michigan drug law and requires local officials to make adjustments to their law enforcement practices… However, it is also vitally important that law enforcement officials follow the law as it is written, not as they may wish it to be.”

In addition to training officers and providing assurances that this practice will end, the ACLU asked city officials to return the medical marijuana that was illegally confiscated from Frizzo or compensate him for the loss.

The letter was signed by Korobkin and Michael J. Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan legal director.

Related Issues: