Despite Michigan Attorney General's Efforts, Big Daddy's Remains Open for Now
A civil matter in Macomb County Circuit Court involving Big Daddy's Hydroponics will be treated as criminal contempt case, according to the judge.
Despite the Michigan Attorney General's attempt Monday to shut down Big Daddy's Hydroponics, the medical marijuana compassion center remains open.
Big Daddy's lawyer Corbett O'Meara convinced Macomb County Circuit Court Judge John Foster Monday to change the civil matter into a criminal contempt complaint against the Chesterfield Township business.
O'Meara argued that converting the type of case means owners Rick and Sue Ferris will receive due process—something Attorney General Bill Schuette would have deprived them under the civil complaint, he said.
"The law is very clear and the attorney general was very confused," O'Meara said. "He wanted it to become civil because there would have been a hearing and it would have been shut down today."
Instead, the show-cause civil hearing Monday was rescheduled for a 1:30 p.m. March 28 criminal contempt court date. That means the owners could face a misdemeanor conviction, or fine, if they violated terms of the medical marijuana act. They stood mute before the judge and packed courtroom of their supporters.
The show-cause hearing Monday in circuit court was to center on an undercover officer posing as a medical marijuana patient. The officer bought pot at the facility on Jan. 25 from a reported caregiver, although she was not listed on his card.
However, Big Daddy's claims that it does not employ caregivers; rather, its compassion center offers licensed caregivers and patients a place to go. The owners also contend they were not on the premises at the time of the alleged purchase. Instead, they appeared in court in Oakland County for a separate case in Oak Park on that date, O'Meara said.
Schuette wanted Foster to order the occupants vacate the property, have the doors padlocked for one year, any illegal contraband destroyed, among other things. He also wanted Big Daddy's to be penalized a $7,500 fine or serve 93 days in jail.
Assistant Attorney General John R. Wright declined to comment in court.
Rick Ferris, also known as Big Daddy, said Monday he prefers the case to be criminal.
"I'd like a jury to decide, not the court," Ferris said. "That's all we want is a chance to defend what we do."
Last week, Ferris said he believes his business has been targeted while O'Meara referred to Schuette's attempt to padlock the business a "witch hunt." By Monday, 87 percent of 138 voters believe that the business is being unfairly targeted, according to an unscientific Patch poll.
Chesterfield Township initially tried to shut down Big Daddy's last July in a lawsuit that accused the business on Gratiot between 23 and 24 Mile roads of violating zoning ordinances. The state joined in the lawsuit soon after, arguing the compassion center is a public nuisance.
Foster initially ordered the compassion center to close. But, his clarified opinion allowed the dispensary to stay open with limited medical marijuana sales under the law.
After the latest court ruling that allowed the compassion center to operate in a restricted way, Ferris said Big Daddy's asked for specific guidelines from Schuette.
"We asked the attorney general to sit down and explain to us what is allowed under the act," he said, adding the request was unfulfilled. "We’re not drug dealers; we don’t want to be classified as drug dealers.”
After the court appearance, Chesterfield Township Police Chief Bruce Smith said the decision to proceed with a criminal contempt case shouldn't hinder the township and state's efforts to close the business.
"I don't think it's going to hurt it," Smith said. "It's just delaying the outcome of the trial."
The civil zoning matter is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Feb. 28 before Foster in Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens.