(Crystal A. Proxmire, Nov. 16, 2013)
After successfully turning in enough petitions to get a marijuana legislation bill placed on the ballot in Ferndale, and announcing his run for State House of Representatives for the 27th District, Andrew Cissell attracted a lot of attention, including the eyes of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department.
At the end of July Cissell turned in the petitions, which ultimately led to the voter-supported change in local ordinance making it legal for adults age 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana on private property. Possession is still illegal under state and federal law.
Once the sale was complete, Cissell was pulled over in Ferndale and arrested. Oakland County NET then executed warrants on three homes. Two in Oak Park contained grow operations and at the third, located in Ferndale, officers discovered that it was Cissell’s father’s home and that the younger Cissell had not been living there according to the father.
Because the Ferndale address is the one Cissell used to file the petition, it prompted a voter fraud investigation on top of the drug charges.
Cissell was bound over for trial after a two hour pretrial hearing in Oak Park District Judge David Gubow’s court on Thursday. Gubow heard from the informant and from detectives involved in the case.
Cissell’s defense is that as a registered medical marijuana caregiver he was allowed to possess the four ounces of pot that were found on him in the car. He also contends that the sale was conducted in Wayne County, not Oakland. However, Judge Gubow told the court Thursday that Oakland County may prosecute cases that happen up to a mile outside their borders.
“This is a political prosecution,” Cissell said in a recent interview with the Oakland County 115 News. “I don’t want to go to jail, but I feel like this is one of those things where I am going through a challenge so that something better will come of it.” He said his attorney will show that he was not living in either of the Oak Park homes and that using his father’s address was legitimate. He also said that because Detroit has a marijuana decriminalization ordinance, he was within his rights to make a sale there. Also that his medical marijuana cards allow him the right to have the amounts he did. Judge Garbow, however, felt there was enough evidence to hold him over for trial.
Detroit’s decriminalization ordinance makes it legal to possess or sell up to an ounce. The informant testified that Cissell had sold to him on two occasions – the first time it was one ounce and the second time it was four ounces.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said that Cissell’s case is “not political.” He stated that “when we’re doing a drug investigation, most of our narcotics investigations come from complaints,” and added “I wasn’t aware of it [Cissell’s case] until we had a case. As I recall there were people calling in and saying ‘did you know this, this and this?’”
He said that the NET investigators were responding to those tips. “People get motivated against other people. It’s not uncommon for somebody to call and give very specific information about other people when they have a personal reason to do so. …We get a lot of tips from relationships, divorces, when someone calls and says ‘I’m leaving so and so and oh by the way, he’s dealing cocaine.’ It’s very common,” he said.
“We’re here to enforce the laws. We’re not in the political business.”
When asked if he had any reaction to Ferndale voters passing Proposal A, he explained that his department is only concerned with large scale drug operations that generally are felonies. He said that “changing drug laws is very complex because there are so many jurisdictions. Even if it is legalized locally, or if Michigan decided to legalize it in the whole state, there are still Federal and International laws… .It’s very complex.” He added that “the law is the law. We’re the referees. If the law changes, we’ll enforce the new rules.”
Cissell faces four felony drug charges, as well as one misdemeanor voter fraud charge. The marijuana charges are being handled in Oak Park, and the voter fraud charge will be heard in Ferndale.
On election night, when Proposal A passed, Cissell’s mother was on hand to celebrate with members of the SAFER Coalition, who backed the ballot measure. Though she is worried for her son’s safety, she is proud and supportive. “Parents don’t always agree with what their adult children do,” she said. “As a parent I will say every parent wants to support their children in something that is meaningful t them, especially if it is something that makes change in the world. There are positive and negative consequents in their children’s lives. But I am personally more involved in the issue than I ever thought I would be. I think changes come at a cost to society. The women’s suffrage movement was difficult for someone’s adult child. But that is how change happens.”
For more on the issue of marijuana in Ferndale, and the Cissell case, see our previous stories:
http://ferndale115.com/20100826clinic.html – Ferndale Clinic Still Open After Raid
http://www.ferndale115.com/20100629medicalm.html – Ferndale Places Moratorium on Medical Marijuana Based Businesses.