Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Another Kalkaska Marijuana...
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Another Kalkaska Marijuana Case

Patrick Sullivan - May 7th, 2012  
Walter Sbresny is waiting to learn whether he can use a medical marijuana defense at trial.

Part one of a two-part story. Next week, the Express will look at the case of Archie Kiel, who is appealing a 2010 marijuana conviction, and the efforts of Kiel and Sbresny to make Kalkaska County more hospitable for medical marijuana patients through a grassroots political effort.

Walter Sbresny’s troubles with the law began when his son got mixed up in an investigation over some kids smoking pot.

Teenagers were hanging out at a shack for snowmobilers in Kalkaska last April when a deputy spotted one of them smoking a joint. Under interrogation, Sbresny’s son told the investigators he got the marijuana from him, a medical marijuana patient, without his knowledge.

That led the deputy to call in the Traverse Narcotics Team and within hours, Walter Sbresny heard a knock on his door.

A TNT officer told Sbresny he wanted to take a look at Sbresny’s marijuana grow operation because, if his son was able to get some of the pot, that meant the operation was not secure, and if it was not secure, the officer believed that meant Sbresny was in violation of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.

“He said that my grow was not secure, but when they got here, it was locked,” Sbresny said.

When Sbresny refused to let police search his house without a warrant, he said he and his wife, Constance, were told by police to stay out of their house while the officers got one, he said.

The officers got a warrant, Sbresny says, after the deputy repeatedly asked him how many plants he had and he repeatedly responded, “What do you define as a plant?” Today, Sbresny says he wishes he would have exercised his rights and told police to leave without answering any of their questions, but that’s not what happened. He said at the time he believed he had no choice and the couple waited outside for hours until officers returned.

When police searched, they allegedly found nearly 200 marijuana plants in Sbresny’s basement, well over the 24 he could possess as a medical marijuana patient and caregiver of one patient.

Sbresny counters that the bulk of the plants were not viable and the total amount of what he possessed was insignificant, but as far as police were concerned, he was in violation of marijuana laws. Sbresny was taken to jail and booked on a felony charge.


Now, more than a year later, Sbresny’s case is on hold, as attorneys await the outcome of another case pending before the Michigan Supreme Court.

So far, a judge in Sbresny’s case has granted a motion from prosecutors to prohibit Sbresny from using his medical marijuana patient status as a defense in his trial.

If that decision holds, that would prevent the defense from even mentioning that Sbresny had a medical marijuana card or that a doctor determined he needed marijuana for medical reasons. Sbresny believes that would be devastating to his defense.

Sbresny is charged with delivery and manufacture of 20 to 200 marijuana plants, a felony that carries up to seven years in prison, and his trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 10.

For supporters of medical marijuana, Sbresny’s case demonstrates the aggressive stance courts and prosecutors have taken against medical marijuana since its use was approved by 63 percent of voters in 2008.

Since then, supporters argue the MMMA has been under attack in places like Kalkaska County and has been chipped away at by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Since his legal troubles began, Sbresny has become a marijuana legalization activist, and he is working with Archie Kiel, another high-profile medical marijuana defendant who was prosecuted in Kalkaska County. Kiel was arrested and charged with felony delivery and manufacture after his use of medical marijuana was profiled in the Northern Express in 2009.

Kiel, whose 2010 conviction is under appeal, was also barred from mounting a medical marijuana defense.

There are over 30 cases that have either been decided by or are pending before the Michigan Court of Appeals over aspects of the MMMA, said Eric VanDussen, a freelance journalist and close follower of medical marijuana issues. One case in particular, People v King, which is pending before the Michigan Supreme Court, could have implications for Sbresny and Kiel, as it is likely to settle the issue of whether defendants have a right to raise medical marijuana status as a defense.

So far, appellate court rulings have not been favorable to the medical marijuana cause, however, VanDussen said.

“The Court of Appeals appears to have an agenda and it appears as though the deck is being stacked against the Medical Marijuana Act,” he said.


Kalkaska earned a reputation for some as an unfriendly locale for medical marijuana users under its previous prosecutor, Brian Donnelly, who died unexpectedly in January while cross-country skiing.

It is unclear what will happen when a new prosecutor takes office next year. Currently, an assistant prosecutor who Donnelly hired, Michael Perreault, has taken over the Sbresny case. He is running for prosecutor as a Republican.

At a preliminary hearing last year, Sbresny’s then-attorney, medical marijuana specialist Jesse Williams, argued that Sbresny’s case is an example of how the MMMA is under attack in Michigan.

Williams argued that the search of Sbresny’s house was illegal and that Sbresny was entitled to possess the marijuana that police found in his home.

Williams said: “The fact that you have some plants here, there’s nothing illegal about those plants. I don’t know what world I’m living in where we have statutes that are written in black and white, like every other statute, that are real easy to read. I mean – the – I hear they’re ambiguous or it’s unartful. They’re useless. They’re uncertain. I think the courts have made them ambiguous and unclear and uncertain.”

At the hearing, Donnelly countered that the MMMA didn’t legalize marijuana, it only offers protection for certain people who use it under certain circumstances.

“The medical marijuana law carves out a narrow exception for certain individuals,” Donnelly argued.

Williams said he still finds this argument absurd, even if it prevails in many cases, and he hopes the People v King case finally puts it to rest.

“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that you have courts and other persons still out there saying that marijuana is still illegal, that this statute is just an exemption,” Williams said. “I would put that to them point blank – you tell me how this statute doesn’t create rights.”

Sbrensy was bound over to face trial and Williams soon left the case, to be replaced by attorney Kyle Trevas. Trevas said he didn’t want to comment about a pending case.

Later, Circuit Judge Janet Allen ruled that the number of plants Sbresny possessed disqualified him from mounting a medical marijuana defense.

To supporters of medical marijuana, this interpretation is an underhanded mutation of the MMMA by judges who seek to overturn the will of the electorate.

VanDussen quotes the ballot language approved by voters which he believes is clear – the act will “permit registered and unregistered patients and primary caregivers to assert medical reasons for using marijuana as a defense to any prosecution involving marijuana.”

To disallow a medical marijuana defense at trial, VanDussen believes, is unfair.

“You’re precluding them from saying ‘medical’ even if they have a very legitimate reason to use medical marijuana,” he said. “It puts people in a situation that the people of the state of Michigan did not intend.”


Sbresny, 52, a father of a 19-year0-old son and 21-year-old daughter and a former DJ who worked at WKLT for two stints in the 1980s and 1990s, started using medical marijuana after a medical condition left him unable to walk. He believes marijuana has been better for him than opiates, and he credits the drug for a partial recovery that has enabled him to walk again.

He is aware, however, of how his case might look.

Police say he had close to 200 marijuana plants growing in his basement. That’s a lot of plants.

Sbresny says he is not a drug dealer and that the 123 plants police said they seized from his home, the ones that constitute the case against him, represent a tiny amount of marijuana. He says the plants confiscated by police were inches tall and contained almost no marijuana material.

He maintains the plant material from those plants would add up to about the weight of a nickel, and all of the material together, including stems, weighed less than two ounces, less than the maximum weight amount he could possess under the MMMA.

He grew all of those plants, he said, because he didn’t know which ones were viable.

“I was waiting for one to start growing, rather than put months into one plant that won’t ever grow,” Sbresny said.

Perreault, the assistant prosecutor, said he believes case law says someone who possessed as many plants as Sbresny is not entitled to a medical marijuana defense, though he says he, too, is waiting to learn what the Supreme Court rules.

“The law (as it stands) is simply pretty clear, that if you would like to take advantage of medical marijuana, you cannot possess more than 12 plants per person,” Perreault said.

Perreault called Sbresny’s insistence that his plants did not amount to a significant amount of marijuana false. He said police only seized plants with root systems and he disagrees that all of the plants were tiny.

“There were plants of all sizes that were seized,” Perreault said.

Williams, the marijuana defense specialist, believes the number of plants possessed by a defendant and whether a defendant is in compliance or not with the MMMA should be decided by a jury, not by a judge at a pre-trial hearing.

“The courts are predetermining the outcomes of these cases,” Williams said. “Let a jury decide. What are these courts and these prosecutors so scared of?”

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05.09.2012 at 09:51 Reply

Folks, I am 64 years old, became a Christian in 1978, became a minister in 1984, and have been branded a criminal for 46 years because I CHOOSE to grow & use God-created Cannabis instead of doing man-made, poisonous drugs (legal or otherwise). I am not alone..we are a LARGE counter-culture of folks who CHOOSE the natural route over the synthetic one. We DO NOT manufacture a drug...we GROW a, seed-bearing, herbal PLANT! We love our families & communities, work hard, believe in shopping local & recycling, grow organic, and contribute to society.Now I ask you, how are we hurting anyone with the choice of our lifestyle? What gives ANYONE the right to make us live a different lifestyle, or THEIR'S? We DO NOT force ANYONE to live our's! We have been jailed, our children & possessions taken away from us, and even killed for OUR choice of lifestyle! So I am humbly pleading with ALL who read this to help RIGHT a WRONG that has been going on for over 70 years now in our country! Help us get the signatures that we need to qualify for the state ballot to end prohibition for ALL adults 21 & over, and then vote YES for OUR God-given rights this November. Go to www.repealtoday.org . Our signature drive started in January and we have till July 9th to collect 500,000 sigs. Let's make our great state of Michigan the shining light on the hill and the leader of our great nation once again...let's make history once again! Obviously, we are not going to get any help from our current legislators. OUR FUTURE IS NOW IN OUR HANDS, SO WHAT WILL WE DO WITH IT?


Rev.Steven B.Thompson,Chapter Director
Benzie County NORML
(Former Executive Director of Michigan NORML
from May,2007 to November,2011)                               

 Help end Cannabis Prohibition at www.repealtoday.org