By Anne Stanton 11/09/09
Archie Kiel, a caregiver who grows marijuana plants for himself and several other medical marijuana patients, was arraigned in 13th Circuit Court last week on felony charges for growing more than the legal limit of plants.
He pled not guilty. Kiel has a jury status conference on December 9the final date on whether he can decide to plead or go to trial.
Charged with manufacture of more than 20 plants and less than 200, Kiel of Rapid City will likely stand trial in December, unless the judge agrees to dismiss his case, said his attorney Ross Hickman.
Hickman says he wishes the prosecutor would just drop the case. “At best, heres a guy who was trying to abide by the law, and thought he was and made a mistake. Its certainly possible he didnt make a mistake. It just doesnt seem appropriate to hang him out to dry for this, Hickman said.
Kalkaska County Assistant Prosecutor Kirk Metzger, who is handling the case, said he understands Hickmans position, but obviously disagrees.
We dont feel it was merely a mistake. He wasnt in compliance with the law. I respect Mr. Hickman, dont get me wrong on that, but we have a fundamental disagreement on proceeding with the prosecution. I dont think it was a good faith mistake. He simply was not in compliance. Its very specific what youre allowed to do under these exceptions.
Kiel was featured in the Express in late August as a grower who was dedicated to the medicinal uses of marijuana. He decided to go public in an effort to educate people about the new state medical marijuana law. But after the article ran, he was busted by the Traverse Narcotics Team for growing more than the allowable six plants per person.
At issue is the affirmative defense under the law, which Hickman contends gives the caregiver the legal ability to grow enough marijuana to provide an uninterrupted supply for his patients. Also at issue is exactly when a person can be considered a legal patient under the lawwhen he or she has evidence of a signed physicians statement, after a certain period of sending in an application to the state for the patient card, or when the patient receives the actual card from the state. Finally, theres the question of exactly what documents the caregiver must present when confronted by law enforcement.
Metzger believes the caregiver must be able to present cards for each patient when officers show up at the door.
Hickman plans to file a motion to dismiss within the next two weeks. The stakes are high if the case continues to trial. The normal maximum for the felony charge is seven years in prison, but in Kiels case, it doubles to 14 years since there was a prior misdemeanor for possession, Metzger said.
About 15 people showed up at last week‘s arraignment in support of Kiel, coming from as far as Lansing, Grand Rapids, and West Branch. Most belonged to Michigan NORML, which supports legalization of marijuana.
There were certainly more people there than normal, no pun or anything, said Hickman.
Kiel, whose favorite phrase is be happy, said hes frustrated that he hasnt been able to say anything in court yet.
My lawyer only said 10 words, he said. I have a whole long speech on the whole incident. But everything is all for the better, its all helping awareness of the law. When its all said and done, there will be a clear definition of whats legal. I was within the bounds of the laws, and it will come to light. It will help everyone else.
Want to tell a great story?
Whether you‘re interested in writing The Great American Novel, or just want to improve your blog, there‘s something for everyone at the Courting the Muse - Writers Conference on Friday, Nov. 20, from 9. a.m to 5 p.m.
Hosted by Northwestern Michigan College in partnership with Michigan Writers, the conference at NMC‘s Olesen Center is designed for the beginner, established writers, and all those in-between; it will include presentations and workshops designed to inspire and challenge your writing.
Author Benjamin Percy, (Language of Elk, Refresh, Refresh) leads the opening session, The Single-Minded Writer as well as a fiction workshop session. Percy is the winner of the 2008 Whitting Award and a contributor to Esquire and The Paris Review. He teaches in the MFA program at Iowa State University.
Two Northern Express staffers are among the presenters: reporter Anne Stanton will walk aspiring writers through the investigative reporting process, from getting the initial tip to writing a compelling story. Students should come to class prepared to talk about a story idea theyd like to pursue. Editor Robert Downes will talk about travel and adventure writing, based on his book, Planet Backpacker.
Other workshop leaders include authors Aaron Stander (Summer People, Deer Season); Elizabeth Buzzelli (Dead Dancing Women, Dead Floating Lovers); poet Fleda Brown (Reunion, Breathing In, Breathing Out); and Anne-Marie Oomen (Pulling Down the Barn, House of Fields). Also featured is screenwriter Lesley Tye.
The cost for the day is $95 and includes lunch. For info and to register visit www.nmc.edu/ees or call NMC at 231-995-1700.