By Anne Stanton
Medical marijuana grower and patient Cecil Drost was able to drive off for
a Florida vacation last week instead of going to jail, relieved that
Charlevoix Prosecutor John Jarema decided to drop all charges against him.
But Drost anxiously wonders if hell be compensated for the estimated
$100,000 worth of medical marijuana plants that were seized in the raid.
Drosts 32 plants were destroyed on September 20, after the Joint
Operational Law Enforcement (JOLT) multi-jurisdictional drug team flew
over Drosts property in a black helicopter. Shortly afterward, five JOLT
officers entered Drosts property next door to his home where he has a
barn, an RV, and an enclosed and locked steel mesh hoop house covered by a
white tarp and surrounded by a six-foot tall chain link fence. It was
here that Drost grew marijuana plants for himself and two other medical
The deputies edged around a locked power gate blocking his driveway and
went on Drosts property without a search warrant at about 1:45 p.m. More
than two hours later, they persuaded Assistant Prosecutor Shaynee Fanara
to sign a search warrant by reporting to her that they had found marijuana
growing behind a tarp and a fence with large open holes in it.
Drosts defense attorney, Jesse Williams, said the report of holes in the
fence was a complete fabrication, in documents filed with the court,
using photographs as proof. Deputies seized and destroyed all 32 plants.
More than a dozen people gathered in the courtroom to see the resulting
trial, but heard none of the deliberations that took place in the closed
chambers and at the podium of 90th District Court Judge Richard May.
At the last minute, the prosecutor asked for a promise from Drost to put
chicken wire over the roof of the hoop house. Williams said he readily
agreed because it meant that deputies would never mess with Cecil again.
Putting that on the record is a safeguard for Cecil. Now he can have a
whole outdoor grow operation, unique to the whole state, and he wont have
to continue putting plastic on top.
Jarema said the reason for the chicken wire was that a kid could climb up
the six-foot fence, lean over and grab the plant that was sticking out of
the hoop house near the ground. I just wanted to make sure people
couldnt come in and grab his dope.
Drost said after the trial that he didnt believe the chicken wire would
make the hoop house any more secure. Someone would need a 14-foot arm with
multiple joints to reach over the six-foot chain link fence and through
another fence (with wider holes than a chicken fence) to the plants
inside, he said.
The Express ran an article about Drosts troubles in its October 11 issue,
along with a videotaped interview on Up North TV 97. Following
publication, Jarema amped up the original misdemeanor charge to a
four-year felony of delivery and manufacture of a controlled substance,
according to court documents signed on October 19.
Jarema eventually reduced the felony charge to the original misdemeanor
violation of health department regulations after talking to Williams.
Williams asked the court to dismiss the misdemeanor charge, alleging that
the search warrant was obtained on false premises. Along with erroneously
asserting there were holes in the fence, Charlevoix Sheriffs Deputy
William Church wrote that the HEMP helicopter spotted marijuana growing
on the defendants property. Williams argued that a helicopter cannot
visually spot marijuana. He added that the law does not require that
medical marijuana plants be invisible from the air space, but only in a
locked and secure enclosure, according to documents filed with the court.
He also said that Drost presented medical marijuana cards for a legal
number of plants, which should have protected him from arrest or
prosecution, according to the law. The deputies failed to mention to
Fareena that Drost was a caregiver and had shown them the cards.
Jarema said in an interview that deputies did not need a search warrant
because they spotted marijuana from the helicopter, and had no way of
knowing that Drost was a legal caregiver until he presented his
state-approved cards once they were on the property. At that point, they
could see a marijuana plant sticking out between the six-foot fence and
Both Jarema and Williams said after the trial that they felt the
resolution of the case was fair based on the facts.
Drost was grateful. The Lord works in mysterious ways, he said, just
before leaving the courthouse. Its been a bunch of crap for
everybodyfamily and friends.