Big Daddy's: We're Not Stirring Pot, Have Right to Distribute Medical Marijuana
On heels of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette joining Chesterfield Township's lawsuit against the medical marijuana dispensary on Gratiot, Big Daddy's says it's fighting back.
Walking into Big Daddy's Hydroponics in Chesterfield Township, you might not guess the business is at the center of a high-profile lawsuit over the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan.
A man stands at the counter, filling out paperwork while a woman awaits information for her daughter with an advanced cancer. Merchandise like cultivating supplies and bongs are available for purchase while rows of medical marijuana advocacy literature pepper shelves.
But get Big Daddy Management Group shareholder and Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine Editor Rick Thompson talking about the business' mission to sell medical marijuana, and he'll say they're not just blowing smoke.
"This is the social revolution of our time," Thompson told Patch.
State Attorney General Joins Township in Lawsuit
For months, Big Daddy's has been embroiled in a lawsuit Chesterfield Township filed to try to shut down the business. When it was filed in July, the suit centered around property zoning. On Monday, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced he received permission to join the lawsuit unfolding in Macomb County Circuit Court—stating the business should be declared a public nuisance and closed.
"Across Michigan, our communities are struggling with an invasion of pot shops near their schools, homes and churches," Schuette in a news release. "Local governments have the right to protect their communities from illegal marijuana dispensaries."
Thompson says this case will play a prominent role in the debate over distributing pot in Michigan.
"Why is the attorney general becoming involved in this? Because if our case wins and we are not deemed a public nuisance, then dispensaries all over the state will reopen," he said. "He's made a career out of attacking medical marijuana since taking office."
Big Daddy's owners Rick and Sue Ferris as well as Thompson are expected to offer depositions Friday in circuit court, he said. The lawsuit also listed the landlord, Pasquale Acciavatti, as a defendant.
Thompson said they have every right to be in the township that did not have an ordinance on the books against dispensaries when they opened in summer 2010.
"The only way left to get us out of town is a nuisance (claim)," he said. "It's not anything specific to us or our operation; it's a general opposition to dispensaries."
The township attorney and officials declined to speak about the case, citing a policy not to discuss pending lawsuits.
Daily Operations at Big Daddy's
The former ironworks building at 52011 Gratiot, north of 23 Mile, serves multiple uses for Big Daddy's. It's part retail store, hydroponic business, Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine headquarters, and distribution center—also known as the Compassion Center.
About 500 people, with chronic pain from illnesses like cancer to muscle spasms, utilize the business in Chesterfield Township; some who come with medical marijuana cards and designated drivers are allowed to smoke pot in the backroom because they have children at home or live in public housing, Thompson said.
Big Daddy's says that location was carefully selected because it's not next to residential properties or schools and it has a private driveway.
The company has other buildings, but its Oak Park location was forced to close down about three months ago following pending drug possession and conspiracy criminal charges for the Ferrises and two other associates after the Oakland County Sheriff's Office raided the facility.
Medical Marijuana, A Growing Debate
In 2008, Michigan voters approved a medical marijuana law. Under that law, people who get a doctor's approval can have up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to treat conditions such as glaucoma and chronic pain. They are also required to get a card from the Michigan Department of Community Health. In addition, under the law, licensed caregivers can grow up to 12 plants and sell marijuana to as many as five patients.
"Why is the attorney general becoming involved in this? Because if our case wins and we are not deemed a public nuisance, then dispensaries all over the state will reopen."
The Michigan attorney general noted in his statement about the Chesterfield case that the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act does not authorize dispensaries. Schuette had also joined Isabella County Prosecutor Larry Burdick and Midland County Prosecutor Michael Carpenter to help close dispensaries in those counties.
New Baltimore Weighs Issue
As neighboring Chesterfield fights a medicial marijuana dispensary in court, a majority of New Baltimore City Council Monday passed a seven-month moratorium on dispensaries in the community—prohibiting them from locating in the city for at least that long.
City Attorney Jack Dolan said the matter could even be revisited before then if the state Supreme Court overturns the Court of Appeals ruling.
City Councilman Jeffrey Christie, who voted against the moratorium, said "I think there should be dispensaries here but heavily regulated." Christie said medicial marijuana is something that can help people suffering physical pain.
New Baltimore Police Chief Tim Wiley said the inconsistency on the issue is frustrating from a law enforcement perspective.
"It's that confusion that puts our officers' safety at risk," Wiley said.