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Detroit Judge Throws Out $1M Marijuana Case 'In The Interest Of Fairness'

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Detroit Judge Throws Out $1M Marijuana Case 'In The Interest Of Fairness'

Felony charges against six people arrested in the raid of a Detroit marijuana grow operation with a reported $1 million in plants were dismissed Tuesday by a judge who said the facility was within the bounds of its temporary state license.

The building at 4473 W. Jefferson Ave. is owned by former NBA player-turned-cannabis entrepreneur Al Harrington, who’s said he believes the raid amounts to harassment of a minority-owned business.

The grow op’s certificate of occupancy from the city stated the intent for a greenhouse at the site, and the operation holds a temporary Class C license under Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act allowing up to 1,500 plants, said 36th District Court Judge Kenneth King.

 

'In The Interest Of Fairness'

“In the interest of fairness and in the spirit of always trying to do the right thing, this court is left with no other choice but to dismiss this matter,” the judge said.

The case had been set for a preliminary exam Tuesday. King said he expected his ruling to be appealed regardless of whether it favored the prosecution or defense. 

“Over 1,000” plants were found in the raid, according to the Wayne County prosecutor’s office. 

King said he stayed up until 3:30 a.m. reading briefs in the case and sorting out the web of acronyms tied to Michigan’s medical marijuana law and the “seed-to-sale” tracking and tax, regulation and licensing system for marijuana growers and dispensaries that took effect late last year.

'Police Are Doing Their Job'

“I don’t believe the police had any malintent. The police are doing their job,” King said. “I think the real blame lies on the documents that were submitted and someone didn’t pay close attention to what the defendants were asking for.”

Prosecutors contended that Harrington’s business wasn't licensed to grow marijuana, King said.

“That kind of leads me to the burning question: if you’re able to dispense but you can’t grow it, how are you supposed to get it? Where are you supposed to get it from?”

Michigan voters will decide on a ballot question Nov. 6 that would legalize and tax recreational marijuana for users 21 and older. Medical marijuana was legalized in Michigan via a ballot proposal in 2008.

“That kind of leads me to the burning question: if you’re able to dispense but you can’t grow it, how are you supposed to get it? Where are you supposed to get it from?” says 36th District Court Judge Kenneth King. Photo by Dustin Blitchok.

Floating Body Reportedly Led To Raid

All six defendants in the case — Cotea Jones, Jeanne Walsh, Curtis Williams, Travis Davison, James Frazier and Jabari Currie — were charged with delivery or manufacture of 45 kilograms or more of marijuana or 200 or more plants — a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Jones, Williams, Davison and Frazier were also charged with conspiracy to deliver or manufacture marijuana, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. 

All charges were dismissed Tuesday.

Officers seized marijuana and held employees at gunpoint during the May 29 raid, according to Harrington and his partners in the Denver-based marijuana company Viola Brands.

All cannabis at the site was taken, the business’ accounts were frozen and employees’ vehicles were seized, according to the company.

Detroit police didn't return multiple calls for comment on this story.

Officer Dan Donakowski told The Detroit News at the time of the raid that a motor patrol investigating other cases in the area smelled pot and informed Detroit’s Gang Intel Unit and the U.S. Border Patrol.

The scent of marijuana was evident near the warehouse when a Benzinga reporter walked by last week.

The potential crime being investigated near Harrington’s warehouse was a body floating in the Detroit River four days before the marijuana raid took place, according to a July 23 story on Marijuana.com.

Benzinga staff writer Javier Hasse contributed to this report.

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The marijuana grow facility, right, owned by former NBA player Al Harrington at 4473 W. Jefferson Ave. in southwest Detroit that was raided May 29. Photo by Dustin Blitchok.

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