Tag Archives: prosecution

What is “Usable Marijuana”?

Man pleads guilty to having too much medical marijuana

Dabrowskis.jpg

 

By Cole Waterman | cwaterma@mlive.com
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on March 14, 2017 at 8:34 AM, updated March 14, 2017 at 8:35 AM

BAY CITY, MI — Nearly two years after police raided their Bangor Township house in search of excessive medical marijuana, a couple’s cases have been resolved with plea deals.

David A. Dabrowski, 65, on Tuesday, March 7, appeared in Bay County Circuit Court and pleaded guilty to one count of delivering or manufacturing marijuana. The charge is a four-year felony.

In exchange, the prosecution agreed to recommend Dabrowski receive a delayed sentence, during which he’d effectively be on probation. If he receives the delay and is successful on it, he’ll be allowed to withdraw his plea and swap it with a guilty plea to misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

The same day Dabrowski entered his plea, prosecutions motioned to dismiss the same felony charge faced by his wife, Sandra K. Dabrowski, 64.

The Dabrowskis, who were arraigned on Sept. 9, 2015, faced trial the day the plea deal was accepted. Their cases date back to April 2015.

What is ‘usable’ pot under medical marijuana law focus in Bay County couple’s prosecution

Whether a Bangor Township couple broke the law by having too much “usable” pot in their medical marijuana growing operation is the point of contention in ongoing legal proceedings.

In a December 2015 preliminary examination, Bay County Sheriff’s Detective Barry Gatza, a member of the Bay Area Narcotics Enforcement Team — or BAYANET — testified he was tasked with investigating an anonymous tip that the Dabrowskis were illegally selling marijuana from their home in the 2900 block of Bangor Road.

He testified that in the early morning of April 27, he pulled two trash bags from a garbage can at the end of the Dabrowskis’ driveway.

“There were several items consistent with marijuana grows that we’ve come in contact with,” Gatza said. Among the items were trimmed marijuana leaves. “It was approximately just under 10 pounds, I believe,” he said.

Gatza obtained a search warrant and later on April 27, approximately a dozen police officers executed it on the Dabrowskis’ property. At the time, David Dabrowski was home selling firearms to two men, Gatza testified. Sandra Dabrowski was not present.

“There were firearms throughout the house,” Gatza testified, adding David Dabrowski is a licensed federal firearms dealer.

Police recovered a large amount of marijuana plants and usable pot, most notably in “the entire basement.” Throughout the house, officers found 96 marijuana plants, 37.7 grams of loose marijuana drying in a basket, and another batch on a table weighing approximately 1,400 grams. Police also found one marijuana plant and marijuana branches in a pole barn, Gatza testified.

In a freezer, police found marijuana oil and several pounds of usable marijuana, Gatza said.

Gatza interviewed David Dabrowski in a BAYANET van, he said. Dabrowski told him he and his wife were medical marijuana caregivers with five patients each.

“Between Sandra and himself, they did co-mingle the plants,” Gatza testified. “They didn’t separate them at all. As far as the daily operations needed to maintain the plants, he did most of the farming on the plants, including Sandra’s.”

Sandra Dabrowski’s jobs included trimming the plants, packaging the crop and setting up purchases, Gatza said David Dabrowski told him.

“He stated that obviously he does provide marijuana to his patients,” Gatza testified. “I think the rate he charges them was $130 an ounce, then he told me he also provides marijuana to people outside his patient list. He charges them $200 an ounce. He said he always makes sure they’re medical marijuana patients, just not his patients. He always makes sure they have a (medical marijuana) card.”

Under the state’s Medical Marijuana Act, patients can have 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana and caregivers can grow up to 12 plants producing 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana for each of their five patients and themselves. With both Dabrowskis being caregivers but only Sandra Dabrowski a patient as well, the couple could legally have a total of 132 plants and 27.5 grams of usable, or processed, marijuana.

Circuit Judge Joseph K. Sheeran is to sentence David Dabrowski at 9 a.m. on Monday, April 17.

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Federal reports target Colo. marijuana money

The federal government is stockpiling hundreds of “suspicious activity reports” that could provide federal agents with sufficient evidence to shut down any state-legalized marijuana business.

While it may appear that federal authorities have taken a wait-and-see approach to marijuana legalization in the 23 states that now allow medical or recreational use, these reports are poised like a blade over the budding industry should federal laws be enforced.

This risk of federal prosecution has led some cannabis companies to literally launder their money.

“You used to be able to just smell it,” said Jennifer Waller, vice president of the Colorado Bankers Association, speaking of the cash from marijuana shops. “But now they are using Febreze a lot, putting the money in dryers, a lot of different things to try to disguise the scent because marijuana has such a distinct odor.”

That distinct odor is considered a red flag by federal authorities who require banks to file a suspicious activity report for every transaction that might be associated with illegal activity, including selling marijuana, even for state licensed businesses.

“It’s because of the illegal nature of it,” Waller said. “In banking, if you are accepting the funds from a marijuana company and you are aware of it … you can be charged with money laundering yourself.”

Banks fear the repercussions of holding deposits related to marijuana, still a Schedule I illegal drug under federal law. That could mean prison time for tellers, fines for the bank, and even the bank losing its federal deposit insurance.

If a marijuana store is charged with money laundering, it could lose everything.

“Even before a conviction, the feds could freeze your assets,” said Chris Myklebust, commissioner of the Colorado Division of Financial Services. “And if there is a money laundering conviction, the feds can seize the assets, too.”

The federal government has already collected more than 1,100 reports that implicate different cannabis companies in financial crimes nationwide.

“Just in a moment’s notice, the U.S. Justice Department could literally take down every single dispensary in Colorado, probably within about a day.” said Rob Corry, a Denver attorney and marijuana advocate. Corry has worked on several cases where federal agents have seized assets — cars, cash, bank accounts — though many of the records are sealed and it’s hard to gauge just how often this occurs.

More often, banks simply shut down marijuana-related accounts. Between February and August 2014, banks filed more than 475 “Marijuana Termination” suspicious activity reports — indicating they closed hundreds of accounts because of possible criminal activity.

“I’ve lost my personal bank account, my brothers have lost their personal bank accounts,” said Sally Vander Veer, operator of Medicine Man dispensary in Denver. The dispensary also lost its account in August. She says that without a bank account, all Medicine Man employees are paid in cash.

“I can’t protect them. They walk out of here with a pocket full of cash and, in essence, they become another target and a potential victim of not having banking in the marijuana industry,” Vander Veer said.

The dilemma has resulted in marijuana dispensaries hiring private businesses like Blue Line Protection Group that employ former military or law-enforcement officers equipped with handguns, bulletproof vests, tactical training and armored trucks to transport cash and product to undisclosed locations for safekeeping.

“When we started, the clients we were picking up had a manager taking (cash) in a Honda Civic or some kind of Subaru, unarmed, no vests, no tactics, no skills,” said Dominic Powelson, who works for Blue Line Protection Group.

State regulators in Colorado and Washington have also tried to ease access to banking. Mycklebust, the Colorado financial services commissioner, issued a charter to the first ever marijuana-focused credit union in November. The new credit union will not immediately have federal credit insurance, although it has applied.

Mycklebust said the new credit union must also file suspicious activity reports.

The so called “SARs” stem from guidelines set forth by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a branch of the U.S. Treasury Department. The guidelines were meant to ease access to banks.

“Banks are required by law to report when they think that a business is making money from something illegal, and marijuana is still federally illegal,” said Steve Hudak, spokesman for FinCEN. “We attempted to provide guidance that would help to get cash off the streets and some of the public danger that is associated with that, so we went about as far as we could.”

But the guidelines didn’t actually legalize banking for marijuana businesses — only Congress can do that. So far, Congressional leaders have been opposed.

“(FinCEN’s) guidance is dangerously misleading,” wrote U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in a letter of reprimand to the agency. “Indeed, following the guidance may expose financial institutions to civil or criminal liability.”

Still, some U.S. representatives from Colorado and other states have introduced legislation to federally legalize state-approved marijuana, or at least legalize the industry’s access to banking. But those bills have not advanced, and state-approved marijuana businesses operate solely as a matter of federal discretion.

That could change at any time.

The Coloradoan brings you this report in partnership with Rocky Mountain PBS I-News. Learn more at rmpbs.org/news. Contact Katie Kuntz at katiekuntz@rmpbs.org

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