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Marijuana butter: Kent County corrections officers busted for pot in limbo
    #766988 - 01/23/15 01:40 PM (3 years, 4 months ago)

Kent County corrections officers Todd VanDoorne, center, and Mike Frederick, second from left, are shown with their attorneys in Judge Dennis Leiber's Kent County courtroom where they appeared for an evidentiary hearing Thursday, January 22, 2015. The two men are accused of illegally having marijuana butter, despite possession of state medical marijuana cards. They say the drug has helped their medical conditions. At right is attorney Bruce Block and at left is attorney Jeffrey Arnson.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- Two Kent County corrections officers accused of using marijuana butter and violating drug laws will learn soon if they can rely on the state's medical marijuana law as a defense.

Todd VanDoorne and Michael Frederick, both veteran jail guards, are waiting to hear from a Kent County judge whether they can testify at trial about being medical marijuana patients.

Judge Dennis Leiber listened to more than three hours of testimony Wednesday, Jan. 21 and Thursday, Jan. 22, to gauge whether he'll allow it at trial.

The issue is likely to be key to their cases.

VanDoorne and Frederick were among four Kent County corrections officers charged in March with violating the state's marijuana laws after a narcotics team discovered they were using marijuana butter.

Much of this week's testimony centered on how much marijuana butter -- used by both officers to make marijuana brownies -- was found in each officer's home when police confiscated it.

Both VanDoorne and Frederick are certified Michigan Medical Marijuana Act patients. Both say they began using marijuana butter in 2011 or 2012 after trying other methods to relieve symptoms of neck pain for VanDoorne and diabetes complications for Frederick.

Both had been on pain-killing narcotics and reported lethargy they say essentially stopped when they switched to the marijuana butter.

"It gave me my life back. It was a good thing," VanDoorne testified.

The state's medical marijuana law allows for patients to have up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana at any given time.

VanDoorne's attorney, Bruce Block, tried to show through testimony that the butter is made with a recipe that calls for two ounces of "bud" marijuana to produce two pounds of butter.

VanDoorne testified that, when narcotics officers came to his house, he had about one pound of marijuana butter and a batch of marijuana-butter brownies from a 13-inch-by-9-inch pan.

Frederick testified he had slightly over four pounds at his house, involving two full small tubs of butter, one partial tub and a batch of brownies.

Kent County Assistant Prosecutor James Benison tried to show that VanDoorne and Frederick were not following rules established by the medical marijuana law. Prosecutors have argued they had too much butter, containing marijuana, on hand.

Their caregiver and marijuana-butter provider was Timothy Scherzer, the brother-in-law of another corrections officer charged in the case, but they had almost no contact with him. VanDoorne and Frederick never met him in person.

Instead, the marijuana butter was transferred to VanDoorne and Frederick through the other other corrections officer, Timothy Bernhardt.

Benison suggested the transfer needed to be direct, from caregiver to patient.

Scherzer, who already pleaded guilty earlier to delivery of marijuana and maintaining a drug house and was sentenced to five years probation and a $10,000 fine, also testified he never offered the officers any advice on how much butter to use.

Bernhardt also pleaded guilty in October top maintaining a drug house, but died before sentencing. A medical examiner ruled the death a suicide.

Block said Leiber has several options on how to rule on this week's evidentiary hearing.

He can disallow any testimony about medical marijuana, allow it, or simply rule the officers should have charges dismissed.

Leiber intends to issue a written opinion.


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