Case dismissed against marijuana grower

BAD AXE — More than three years after his Bad Axe rental house was raided, charges against 47-year-old Livonia resident Jeffrey David Ellis were dismissed Friday.

Judge M. Richard Knoblock made the decision after determining that Ellis was in compliance with the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, on that day in September 2009.

In what was sometimes a contentious hearing, two key points in the law were clearly established through witness testimony.

Dr. Randall Sternberg, who also is of Livonia, said he has acted as Ellis’s primary physician for years, and he signed paperwork for Ellis, Eliss’s late-wife, and several other clients to receive medical marijuana cards. This proved Ellis had physician approval.

Sternberg said he helped less than 10 clients obtain medicinal marijuana cards, only giving them to patients who had brought up the notion after years of him knowing they were in pain.

Ellis was able to wean off pain-killers for tendinitis after he obtained his card.

Two other witnesses discussed Ellis’s role as their licensed caregiver for medical marijuana, describing how ailments ranging from degenerative disc disease to extreme nausea were helped by his products. Ellis himself talked about how marijuana had helped his wife deal with her lupus, and how her condition had spurred his extensive research into marijuana in 2008 and subsequent start as a caregiver.

“We knew the law was changing (in 2008) and we were going to get on that immediately,” Ellis said.

The testimonies were in line with another part of the law that requires marijuana transactions to “treat or alleviate the patient’s serious or debilitating medical condition.”

Contention revolved around whether or not the amount of marijuana Ellis was growing was reasonably necessary to treat his clients.

A large portion of the hearing was spent with the prosecution going over how many plants would lead to how many usable ounces and grams of various forms of marijuana.

In the end, Knoblock determined that Ellis was within a reasonable amount to try and give care to his clients.

In what was one of the biggest news stories in 2009, Ellis claimed he had done nothing wrong after local police raided his home. A card-carrying registered caregiver licensed to give patients medical marijuana, Ellis felt he deserves protection under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

After criminal charges were filed, Ellis sought to use Michigan’s marijuana law to defend himself during trial. However, prosecutors argued Ellis deserves no protection from the state’s medical marijuana law because he was not in compliance with all provisions of the act. Specifically, the door was not locked to the basement where Ellis grew marijuana. Also, police say Ellis had more marijuana plants than what’s allowed by law.

Ellis countered that the door to the home was locked, and that plants without roots were counted by police, and they should not have been counted because the law allows for caregivers to have enough in stock and in the growing process to not cause a shortage in a patient’s supply.

Knoblock originally agreed with prosecutors, noting Ellis was not in compliance with all the provisions of the state’s law.

Because he could not use the law during trial, Ellis plead guilty to a charge of manufacturing and distributing a controlled substance outside of a license in November 2011. In April 2012, he was sentenced to serve 60 days in jail and 36 months probation. However, Knoblock agreed to stay the terms of Ellis’s sentence, as it was known Ellis and his defense attorney, Michael A. Komorn of Southfield, were going to appeal the case to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Since that time, the Michigan Supreme Court has weighed in on the state’s medical marijuana law. Specifically, the court ruled that even if a defendant does not meet all the provisions of the act, a separate portion of the law still gives a person the right to use the medical marijuana law as a defense during a trial.

The result of that ruling was that the Michigan Court of Appeals vacated Ellis’s plea, and sent the case back to Huron County for Friday’s hearing. During that hearing, he had to prove he had a physician’s recommendation to serve as a caregiver; possessed a quantity that’s not more than is reasonably necessary to ensure the uninterrupted availability of marijuana for his patients; and that he engaged in the possession/manufacturing of marijuana for a patient’s treatment. Had there been a question of Ellis being in compliance with those three areas during Friday’s hearing, the matter would have been decided by a jury.  Instead, Knoblock ruled he was in compliance and the charges have been dismissed.

By Nich Wolak
Tribune Staff Writer
Published: Friday, March 22, 2013 9:22 PM EDT

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