So How Is This Different From Armed Robbery?

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Earlier this month, police in Oakland County, Michigan raided a medical marijuana dispensary in the town of Oak Park. The deputies came in with guns drawn and bulletproof vests, with at least one wearing a mask.

They made no arrests, but they did clean the place out. The confiscated all of the dispensary’s cash on hand and—in a particularly thuggish touch—also took all of the cash from the wallets and purses of employees and patients. In this update, police officials say the raid was the result of street dealers telling police they were buying marijuana from the dispensary. I suppose we’ll see in time if that’s true, and if it is, if the dispensary was actually aware that it was selling to dealers. But at first blush, the claim sounds like a pretty good way for street dealers to put a legitimate competitor out of business.

Under Michigan’s asset forfeiture law, 80 percent of the cash the deputies seized will go directly to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department. The other 20 percent goes to the local prosecutor. Medical marijuana is legal under Michigan law but is of course still illegal under federal law. And apparently there’s some debate about the legality of dispensaries. All of which means this particular dispensary will have a hard time proving it earned the seized cash legitimately. I doubt the patients and employees will get their cash back, either. The cost of challenging the seizure is likely several times more than the amount of money most people carry on their person.

There’s been some talk in the Michigan legislature about reforming the state’s asset forfeiture laws, but there’s been no action so far. Last February, a former prosecutor described the Michigan forfeiture law to the Detroit News this way:

“It’s a money grab, pure and simple; a sneaky way of getting a penalty on something prosecutors can’t prove. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”

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62 Responses to “So How Is This Different From Armed Robbery?”

  1. #1 |  Mario | 

    My country has turned into the countries my social studies teachers in high school and junior high used to point to as examples of how the governments in other parts of the the world act.

    This is shameful.

  2. #2 |  Gordon | 

    How is it different?

    Armed robbers generally work alone or with only one or two accomplices, meaning the victim may at least have a chance.

    Victims can legally defend themselves against armed robbery.

    Armed robbers, when identified, are arrested, jailed, and prosecuted. They do not generally enjoy special legal protections and privileges.

    Mario is right; we’ve become like all the rest of the countries from which people escaped in their search for freedom and dignity.

  3. #3 |  Rhayader | 

    police officials say the raid was the result of street dealers telling police they were buying marijuana from the dispensary

    Bullshit — the numbers don’t work out. Dispensaries charge street prices, with little to no savings available from buying in bulk. If a street dealer bought from a dispensary then marked up his price for resale, he’d price himself right out of the market.

    To make even a plausible connection, it would have to be tied together at least one step higher — in other words, the dealer would buy from the grower (or supplier) who also sells to a dispensary. Of course, how that situation would implicate the dispensary in any wrongdoing is far from clear.

  4. #4 |  Pablo | 

    #1–Sometimes that doesn’t hit until we think about it for a while. I saw a Spanish-language movie a while back called “Secret in their eyes” about a thug who rapes and kills a woman in (I think) Argentina and is released from prison after a short while, because he makes himself useful to the authorities there.

    My first reaction when that happened in the movie was “god, I can’t imagine that, it’s good to live in a country where that sort of thing doesn’t happen.”

    Then I remembered all the stuff I have read here . . .

  5. #5 |  M | 

    I believe that’s what some people they arrested said. I also believe the cops first said to those people “We’ll throw the book at you if you don’t finger these guys.”

  6. #6 |  Pete | 

    Every agent of the King is a tax collector – that’s how it’s different.

  7. #7 |  Fat Crack Ho | 

    I know it’s a rhetorical question, but I’ll answer it anyway.

    It’s not different. Armed thugs burst into a legitimate business hold everyone at gunpoint, and proceed to rob not only the business itself, but the customers as well. The fact that the robbers wore special costumes doesn’t mitigate this crime one iota.

  8. #8 |  Bob | 

    What Rhayader said.

    Anyone who knows anything about medical marijuana knows they put out premium product at premium prices. There is no way street dealers are buying from dispensaries and then raising the prices even more. They have their OWN suppliers that will sell it to them cheaper.

    This is simply a cash grab. It’s armed robbery.

  9. #9 |  Tom | 

    Oakland County MI is absolutely disgusting – last year the Sheriff dept forged medical marijuana cards (fully admit it) to enter dispensaries then raided them and patients / owners homes. Full masks, machine guns, in front of kids…the whole routine. I live here, I am a MMJ patient and I can’t wait to leave.

    http://theoaklandpress.com/articles/2011/01/07/news/doc4d276fd421eb9035926446.txt

    Tom

  10. #10 |  BamBam | 

    how is this any different from taxation?

  11. #11 |  Brandon | 

    It’s less polite.

  12. #12 |  Juice | 

    According to the sheriff’s department, deputies seized $2,874 in cash, along with a scale, laptop, documents and more than 24 pounds of marijuana products.

    The marijuana alone is worth more than $20k. Unless they’re valuing it at the retail price that the store charges and it’s way less than “street price”. Usually cops way inflate the value of marijuana they seize.

  13. #13 |  T.Mike | 

    Criminals… Don’t want to be arrested for stealing?
    Join the Police Force.

  14. #14 |  JThompson | 

    I don’t understand how asset forfeiture hasn’t been found unconstitutional. It seems like it violates at least two amendments.

    @BamBam: You get something in return for taxation, that’s the difference. Well, unless you’re living in the middle of nowhere with no services or roads of any kind and you’re completely self sufficient. If that’s the case there isn’t any difference.

  15. #15 |  Asset forfeiture laws are a national disgrace « Jacob Epstein's blog | 

    [...] national disgrace January 20, 2011 Jacob Leave a comment Go to comments Radley Balko posts yet anothe depressing example of police departments seizing personal property that is suspected of having been involved with a [...]

  16. #16 |  TC | 

    Budgets are tight! Somebody’s got to pay for all this high tech gear we have not to mention our roid injections!

  17. #17 |  Matt | 

    Oakland County’s Sheriff Michael Bouchard must be taking correspondence lessons from Phoenix’s MegaloJoe Arpaio.

    Will Grigg wrote about Bouchard and his marauding terror troops last September:
    http://freedominourtime.blogspot.com/2010/09/no-law-no-warrant-no-problem.html

  18. #18 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I think there was a story about this recently in the news. The headline was “Gangs are Terrorizing Our Cities”.

  19. #19 |  Matt | 

    JThompson: “You get something in return for taxation, that’s the difference. Well, unless you’re living in the middle of nowhere with no services or roads of any kind and you’re completely self sufficient. If that’s the case there isn’t any difference.”

    Always with the services and roads as an excuse for theft. I live on a road with services available, and I don’t use all of them, but I certainly have to pay for all them. I have a friend who lives on a private road who gets to pay for services like trash removal and police patrols, but doesn’t receive those services. That same friend has no children but gets to subsidize other peoples’ kids indoctrination.

    Theft is theft is theft. It doesn’t matter if the thief “serves” you by straightening your lapels after shaking you down. He *still* took your money by force.

  20. #20 |  Steamed McQueen | 

    The raid itself was wrong on many levels but what was the justification for taking the money from the customers wallets? That’s just theft plain and simple.

    Agree that the tipoff was bullshit. No way were street dealers buying at retail and reselling.

  21. #21 |  Mario | 

    How is it different from armed robbery? No one will criticize you for suggesting that you shoot armed robbers.

  22. #22 |  c andrew | 

    Mario,
    You took the words right out of my keyboard!

  23. #23 |  c andrew | 

    how is this any different from taxation?

    BamBam,
    This approach is more honest.

  24. #24 |  Dan | 

    I recently had a daymare where I found $10,000 in a wallet laying by the side of a road and turned it in to the police who confiscated it then arrested me on suspicion of breaking some law.

    When I was growing up, I remember reading stories of large amounts of cash returned to either the rightful owners or the “honest” individual who alerted the Police of the find.

    All that said :

    $20,000 in cash is quite a haul for a boutique store.

    Big Daddy’s Compassion Club sounds more like a strip joint than a MMJ dispensary.

  25. #25 |  nando | 

    When I was in the Armed Forces, we were subject to the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice). The UCMJ states penalties for not following LAWFUL orders, but members also had a obligation to not follow UNLAWFUL orders, even if given by the President himself (an unlawful order is any order that violates any part of the UCMJ itself).

    So, why isn’t there a law similar to this that applies to civilian law enforcement? If they are ordered to take part in an operation that pursues a law-abiding person, then they should be held responsible for following that order (as well as the person who issued it, of course).

  26. #26 |  cApitalist | 

    #10 BamBam = awesome
    #21 Mario = awesome

    How is it different?

    At least a common thief has the good taste to run off and leave you alone after perpetrating his crime. The state will continue to steal from you all the while insisting its being done for your own good.

  27. #27 |  Justin | 

    In light of the highly publicized mafia bust today, I think all Americans need stories like this one to remind us all who the true gangstas are in this country.

  28. #28 |  Gordon | 

    No, nando, the police only want to adopt the *fun* parts of militarization…

  29. #29 |  André | 

    Nando: they can always trump up charges. There’s no such thing as a law-abiding citizen.

  30. #30 |  croaker | 

    @21 USA v John Bad Elk. A police officer that breaks the law is no longer a police officer and can no longer assert the powers and privileges of that office. At that point, shooting the armed robber impersonating a police officer becomes laudable homicide.

  31. #31 |  J.S. | 

    “How is it different from armed robbery? No one will criticize you for suggesting that you shoot armed robbers.”

    Or outright arrest you for making “terrorist threats”.

  32. #32 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    Michigan’s plan for economic recovery? Let the sheep get fat, slaughter one or two on occasion?

    This Bouchard is a real piece of work – I hope the growers and caregivers of MI use their newfound wealth to buy the necessary political power to remove this asshat from his office.

  33. #33 |  delta | 

    On takings vs. taxes:
    – Seizures without process are prohibited by the 4th Amendment.
    – Taxes on income are permitted by the 16th Amendment.

    Like, needing to point this out is how some libertarian subsets paint themselves as crazy people you should ignore.

  34. #34 |  Joe | 

    Does anyone see the wee conflict of interest in this?

    Why isn’t the bar looking at the Prosecutors on this one?

  35. #35 |  Nate | 

    You might be interested to hear that this happened in CA very recently. My Ex-girlfriend used to work at MediLeaf in San Jose. One of her old co-workers called her minutes after the raid last month telling her that the cops confiscated cash and valuables from all the employees and customers that happened to be on the property.

  36. #36 |  freedomfan | 

    I have a side note about Nate’s comment regarding the December raid on MediLeaf (which may well apply to the Michigan raid as well). The raiders targeted these dispensaries, claiming that they are making excessive profits, which is something the geniuses in California government apparently don’t like to see occur when a private business exists by catering to a legal customer need.* I’m not aware that any such anti-profit provision exists in the medical marijuana law itself, but “[t]he attorney general’s guidelines prohibit the dispensaries from acting as profit-making businesses.”

    So, with all the asset seizures in these raids, one obvious question is: Does the AG apply the same criterion to the police?

    * Actually, that’s pretty consistent with the business climate the state creates in California for all businesses, with the possible exception of those claiming to be “green”…

  37. #37 |  Michigan police use asset forfeiture to take cash from patients « Americans for Forfeiture Reform | 

    [...] use asset forfeiture to take cash from patients By Eapen Thampy, on January 21st, 2011 Over at The Agitator, Radley Balko takes Michigan police to task for using asset forfeiture laws to seize cash from [...]

  38. #38 |  JOR | 

    The only good cop is a dead cop. Full stop.

    (That’s not a death threat, just a wild hope that they’ll all wake up and shoot themselves or choke on donuts or something.)

  39. #39 |  BenSix | 

    It’s the gun thing that gets me. I mean, are these guys paranoid or are their automatics not the only hard, snub-nosed thing about the crotch region? They came in, pistols ready, on the word of street dealers – who, as everyone who’s been sold an 8th packet of oregano won’t be aware, are notoriously reliable – and what did they expect to find in there? Not every supplier is Tony Soprano.

    (By the way, anyone who wants a morning fix of police corruption might be entertained to look at this and then this. Could be something interesting brewing.)

  40. #40 |  BenSix | 

    The only good cop is a dead cop. Full stop.

    Come on, man. Much as I’m sure it disappoints their bosses they’re not all clone warriors.

  41. #41 |  jake | 

    Pretty obvious that it breeds contempt for ‘the law’.

  42. #42 |  derfel cadarn | 

    GOVERNMENT is CRIME. This is theft Plain and simple. When will the PEOPLE have had enough ? We are at present nearing the proverbial straw,woe be to those with dirty hands when the PEOPLE wake up and find that they are STRONG.

  43. #43 |  James J.B. | 

    How is it different? The robber will eventually feel bad. Maybe he hurts someone or a child is killed. The robber may feel awful. Not so with the blue gang. They were following all procedures. Gotta break some eggs, right…

    I know the answer, but why isn’t this stuff ever on the evening news. Not that I watch…

  44. #44 |  Government Confiscation Different From Armed Robbery? « BUNKERVILLE | God, Guns and Guts Comrades! | 

    [...] From:  The Agitator [...]

  45. #45 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    It is different because the guys with the biggest guns say it is different. THAT is the only difference.

  46. #46 |  TomG | 

    You guys forgot the other difference – you’re allowed to make audio recordings of armed robbers !

    On topic, are there any attorneys willing to take the cases of citizens who are inside these dispensaries and get their money stolen without being arrested or convicted ?
    The time is long past due when police need to forfeit their immunity from lawsuits – they’ve abused that privilege beyond redemption.

  47. #47 |  K.T. | 

    “Theft is theft is theft. It doesn’t matter if the thief “serves” you by straightening your lapels after shaking you down. He *still* took your money by force.”

    Matt’s right. The “services” provided via taxation are no different than if a Mafioso broke your legs and then handed you a crutch and said, “See? Where would you be without us?”

  48. #48 |  HaciendaMike | 

    Behavior like this comes as no surprise to those of us in the Nevada medical cannabis community. On September 8, 2010 approximately 16 businesses and three residences were raided by a joint DEA/local task force in an heist sarcastically named Operation Chronic Problem. Although it has received little attention in the blogosphere, these raids were a deliberate attempt to strike fear into the hearts of legitimate patients and those courageous enough to try and help them.

    On January 6, 2011 fifteen were arrested, stripped down to tee shirts and pants and forced to spend the night sleeping without blankets or pillows on the concrete floors of the overcrowded North Las Vegas Detention Center while cold air was pumped in through the vents. The next day, all were hauled before a federal magistrate and were read a panoply of serious charges which could land some of these defendants in federal prison for forty years.

    Grand jury indictments were announced against 11 defendants two days ago.

    We know that the federal government has stated that they will not interfere in cases where the accused is in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with the state law. The kicker here is that the Nevada law NRS 453A is clearly and unambiguously NOT compliant with Article 4, Section 38 of our state Constitution. The legislature willfully ignored the mandate of the people, instead enacting a statute that is patently unconstitutional, and the local sheriff brought in the feds to help accomplish his dirty work.

  49. #49 |  CyniCAl | 

    “So How Is This Different From Armed Robbery?”

    In scope.

  50. #50 |  CyniCAl | 

    I could not care less about medical marijuana, and stories like this strengthen my apathy.

    I don’t need a law giving me permission to put what I want in my body before I put it in my body.

    I would rather obtain from a private individual who has what I want than navigate “legal” channels. Never really had a problem in the past, don’t expect to have one in the future. And if I do, whatever. Same should apply to any private individual.

    The State has the guns and the people who are motivated to use them, and there’s no bigger gang on the block to blunt their power. How are you going to beat that? By playing their game? Best of luck.

  51. #51 |  chris | 

    Let me get this straight. Illegal consensual non-crimes = bad, legally sanctioned crime harming people/property = good? None of these cops see their hypocricy, I’m sure. They’re legally raiding some dope den for justice!

  52. #52 |  Richard P Steeb | 

    Different? It’s the textbook definition of LARCENY. By trough-feeding badge-wearing parasites– only makes it WORSE.

    I’m just sayin’…

  53. #53 |  Bonus Afternoon Links | The Agitator | 

    [...] to expand asset forfeiture to allow police agencies to use forfeited funds for general operations. What could possibly go [...]

  54. #54 |  Did They? | 

    I just want to know if the same officers went knocking on these “dealers” door? If someone called and told you they were pot dealers(from the street) buying from other dealers wouldn’t you go after the street level people first, leaving the legitimate business alone?
    My daughter asked me if Pirates still existed the other day……now I know for sure they do, and the come wearing badges, and three piece suites.

  55. #55 |  craschworks » Blog Archive » So How Is This Different From Armed Robbery? | 

    [...] Under Michigan’s asset forfeiture law, 80 percent of the cash the deputies seized will go directly to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department. The other 20 percent goes to the local prosecutor. Medical marijuana is legal under Michigan law but is of course still illegal under federal law. And apparently there’s some debate about the legality of dispensaries. All of which means this particular dispensary will have a hard time proving it earned the seized cash legitimately. I doubt the patients and employees will get their cash back, either. The cost of challenging the seizure is likely several times more than the amount of money most people carry on their person. via theagitator.com [...]

  56. #56 |  How is this different from armed robbery? « Crushing Cigarettes | 

    [...] a penalty on something prosecutors can’t prove. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.” via theagitator.com Published [...]

  57. #57 |  IronSeraph | 

    so .. i had a similar incident where OCS barged into my home on april 20th, 2011 took all my stuff and the cash out of my wallet and proceeded to leave without so much as a how do you do. i later found out that the the reason they burst into my home under the suspicion of a giant drug party being there and they thought i was selling 4800 pounds of Marijuana a month. they found an empty apartment and less than half an ounce of product yet they still got to seize everything i had despite my not being arrested or even being charged with any crimes. the difference between this and armed robbery is that i can not do anything until my warrant becomes public record, even then it will be an arduous legal battle. at least with an armed robber i could use my shotgun.

  58. #58 |  jaymes | 

    This is so shameful. I plan on being a police officer when I graduate and this just sickens me. this is so obviously just robbery. Every cop who was involved needs to spend ten years (at least) in prison and get their badges taken away

  59. #59 |  Dan Horowitz | 

    Good. You break the law, you pay the price, simple as that. I hope to see as many raids like this as it takes to shut down all the drug dealers. Now they can put that drug money to good use buying some much needed tactical assault equipment for the police.

  60. #60 |  Nem | 

    This is horseSH*T. If it’s legal under state law then why does Oakland County have the right to do this? The federal law needs to change, it is the grey area that gives police the idea that they can rob these places for themselves.

    I say get norml behind you, spread the story, and fight the corrupt power!

  61. #61 |  Mark Snyder | 

    Okay, when a group of people who claim to be police officers raid your building, rob you blind, and steal your property, you do what you would do if they were not police officers. YOU TREAT THEM LIKE THE CRIMINALS THAT THEY ARE. The police do not blatantly rob you of the money in your wallet at gun point. That is what thieves do.

  62. #62 |  Vibius | 

    Ahh members of the Blue Line gang strike again!

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