Marijuana grants help educate police

November 27, 2015:

Drug task force units in St. Clair and Sanilac counties received $41,740 and $18,483 respectively in medical marijuana grant money in 2015, according to a Sept. 25 report from the state department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

The money was awarded to four counties statewide through an inaugural program that awards grants for the education, communication and enforcement of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

The Medical Marijuana Operation and Oversight Grants come from fees paid to the Michigan Medical Marihuana fund by people applying for or renewing their medical marijuana patient registry cards.

The grant amounts for each county law enforcement department are based on how many people apply for or renew a card in the county that year.

St. Clair County Sheriff Tim Donnellon said with continuous changes to the medical marijuana law, the grant money helps law enforcement to stay on top of the changing landscape.

“You have to have a mechanism in place where you can be afforded the training so you’re doing this right,” Donnellon said.

“There has to be funding in place so law enforcement can stay up to speed.”

In 2015, the St. Clair County Drug Task Force was eligible to receive $48,917, and spent $41,740. Sanilac County Drug Task Force was eligible to receive $18,484, and spent $18,483.94.

In 2016, the St. Clair County Drug Task Force is eligible to receive $44,265 based on the 1,251 patient cards issued and renewed in the county in 2015, according to the state Bureau of Professional Licensing.

In 2016, the Sanilac County Drug Task Force is eligible to receive $12,986 based on the 367 patient cards issued and renewed in the county in 2015.

In St. Clair County, the 2015 money was used for “knock-and-talk” compliance checks, some equipment, flyovers to check for illegal grow operations, and training in Lansing on medical marijuana grow operations.

The majority of the grant, about $33,700, was spent on wages for training and enforcement of the medical marijuana law.

The report noted that officials found the majority of grow operations they checked were in compliance with laws. Those with minor violations were instructed on how to correct those violations.

“When we do find and put effort into violations, it’s because they’re extremely significant violations,” Donnellon said.

“If we can educate people and keep them compliant because we’ve been taught through the grant, that’s a good thing for everyone involved.”

Sanilac County Drug Task Force spent its 2015 dollars, awarded for the period between April and September, on salary, equipment, and drug education.

Equipment purchases include iPads, a utility trailer, uniform shirts and jackets and stun guns.

Director Jim Johnson said the iPads allow deputies to photograph evidence and produce reports. They’re also used during educational presentations throughout the county.

He said the utility trailer is used to transport equipment and evidence.

“There’s items — like the iPads for the video, recording and reports — that probably with a regular budget, we would not have purchased,” Johnson said.

He said the grant also helped to pay for the manpower spent on compliance checks. Johnson said the agency had to approve the purchases with the state throughout the year.

Johnson said his department plans to apply for the 2016 grant.

According to the state’s September report, the Macomb County Sheriff Department used about $36,322 of the approximately $63,198 available in medical marijuana grant money, while Lapeer County used about $19,543 of the approximately $36,439 available.

By Beth LeBlanc, Times Herald

Contact Beth LeBlanc at (810) 989-6259 or Follow her on Twitter @THBethLeBlanc.

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