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..

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Criminal or Conscientious Businessman?

Murky med marijuana law puts Christopher Gee at risk

Patrick Sullivan - April 29th, 2013  

Christopher Gee worked for a while at a medical marijuana store in Cadillac but he later said he didn’t like the way his employers did business.

Too many corners were cut, Gee said.

They were too loose with the rules. They were going to wind up in jail.

Gee, 36, of Tustin, said he decided he would open up his own shop that would do things right, according to his testimony during a 2011 court hearing.

He would follow Michigan’s Medical Marijuana law as best he could. He would hire a lawyer to advise him. He would help out patients by getting them the medicine they need. And he would make a few bucks along the way.


That’s what Gee did, and he started Twinn Bridges Compassion Club, with outlets in Cadillac and Midland, but that did not keep him out of trouble.

He was closed down in Midland County after the prosecutor there had his business declared a civil nuisance in 2011.

The Midland business closure occurred around the time the Michigan Court of Appeals barred patient-to-patient transfers of marijuana, essentially criminalizing the business model that medical marijuana stores across the state had employed.

In Wexford County, officials were more aggressive -- he was charged with numerous felony cases for delivery and manufacture of marijuana and he was also charged with conducting a criminal enterprise, a racketeering charge that carries up to 20 years in prison.


Gee’s criminal attorney, Jesse Williams, of Traverse City, believes Wexford County officials and the Traverse Narcotics Team went too far. (Williams was not Gee’s business lawyer.)

In March, Williams filed and won a motion to have the cases against Gee dismissed.

Wexford County Circuit Court Judge William Fagerman agreed with Williams that Gee could be considered a primary caregiver, even though he was not a registered caregiver, who was able to hand out reasonable amounts of medical marijuana to patients under the law.

Earlier this month, Wexford County filed a motion for reconsideration to have the case against Gee reinstated.

Williams said he believes the criminal case is waste of time. The store is closed now and ealier prosecutors could have followed officials in Midland and had Gee’s business shuttered in Cadillac with much less of a fuss.

“TNT could have gone right back to Wexford County that day (that the Midland business was closed) and said, ‘Hey prosecutor, let’s bring forth a public nuisance action,’” Williams said.

Instead they launched a drawn-out, expensive criminal prosecution.


It was back-to-back car crashes in 2003 that made Gee a medical marijuana patient, he testified at the hearing in Midland County in July, 2011.

He said the medical problems led to repeat surgeries and eventually abuse of dangerous painkillers.

“I got to the point where I was having surgeries after surgeries, because I was just doing everything I could,” he said, according to a transcript.

He said marijuana changed his life: “Someone had offered me medical marijuana. I was out of my pain pills, on my last edge. I took it. When I took it, I realized, wow. It’s got decent value. ...I stopped every pain pill possible.”

And he became such a believer in medical marijuana that he went into the medical marijuana business.

Williams said Gee voluntarily closed his Cadillac business after the Court of Appeals found that patient-to-patient transfers were illegal in August, 2011.

The charges against Gee were dismissed at a hearing on March 14.


Prosecutors want another shot at Gee, however.

The lead prosecutor for the Wexford County case is William Donnelly, who is the Missaukee County prosecutor. Donnelly was appointed after Wexford County Prosecutor Anthony Badovinac removed himself from the case because Badovinac had represented one of Gee’s co-defendants while he was in private practice.

Donnelly, who didn’t return a call seeking comment, argued that Gee broke the law because a caregiver can only sell marijuana to one of his five registered patients under the law; they cannot sell to anyone with a medical marijuana card even if they do it through a medical marijuana dispensary.

Fagerman rejected that argument, ruling that a part of the medical marijuana law called Sec. 8 allows defendants to bring an affirmative defense under certain circumstances.

He found that Gee met those circumstances because he was over age 21, he had no prior drug felony, and his business sold what appeared to be reasonable amounts of marijuana to customers, including the police informants, who were card-carrying medical marijuana patients.

Fagerman didn’t get to William’s second argument, which was that the activity Gee is charged with took place before the Michigan Court of Appeals barred patient-to-patient transfers. At the time of the investigation, courts around the state disagreed about whether a business model like Gee’s was legal under the medical marijuana law.

Williams wrote: “Stated another way, Defendant is being called a criminal because he interpreted an ambiguously written statute in the same fashion as a sitting circuit court judge.”


Gee’s case is yet another medical marijuana case that’s been drawn out by the murkiness of Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act.

In the motion for reconsideration that could see charges reinstated against Gee, the sides argue about when a Sec. 8 affirmative defense could be be used by Gee in this case, and the arguments get arcane.

Prosecutors argue that the defense never proved the amounts of marijuana sold to informants at the store -- between one and five grams at a time -- were amounts “reasonably necessary to treat their respective medical conditions.”

They also dispute whether Gee had the status necessary to bring an affirmative defense as a primary caregiver.

Prosecutors, who now include Christopher Forsyth, an assistant Grand Traverse County prosecutor who specializes in drug cases and often works with TNT, argue that Gee conceded he was not the primary caregiver of the patients/informants in the case.

Williams has maintained that while Gee was never their “registered primary caregiver,” he should be seen as their de facto primary caregiver for the purposes of an affirmative defense.


Williams said he believes the case against Gee is absurd.

It involved nine controlled buys by confidential informants. Those buys netted around 23 grams of marijuana purchased for $334, less than an ounce of marijuana altogether.

In one instance, an informant received a lollipop that contained an unknown amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

“These officers should be embarrassed for what they did,” Williams said. “They’re acting like they’re protecting the public.”

Lt. Dan King of the Traverse Narcotics Team said he didn’t want to comment while the case was under appeal.

Two of Gee’s employees pleaded guilty to felonies for their involvement prior to the dismissal of the case against Gee.

Williams said he believes it is ridiculous to charge Gee as a conductor of a criminal enterprise.

“That’s a statute to bring down big-time players who are doing real harm and there hasn’t been any harm here,” Williams said. “They are wasting big-time resources for what? Nothing has been accomplished.”

Now, in what Williams said is as an ironic epilogue, state legislators are attempting to codify something like Gee’s business model for the distribution of medical marijuana.

There is a bill pending that would enable the legal operation of something like Gee’s business in the state.

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04.30.2013 at 03:11 Reply

I appreciate the attention to this issue and the proper legal outcome described in the article. However, I take issue with the premise that the MMA is "murky" or otherwise difficult to understand. The issue lies with the relative handful of opponents, sitting in positions of power, purposefully misinterpreting and working against the voters.

Section 8 exists and can work! Excellent work by attorney Jesse Williams. How much of the tax payer's money does the prosecution consider reasonable to use against the will of their own constiruents?