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Posted on Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 2:25 p.m.

Felony drug charges filed against downtown Ann Arbor medical marijuana dispensary owner

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor medical marijuana entrepreneur T.J. Rice is being charged with two felony drug counts on suspicion of operating a downtown marijuana dispensary in violation of state law.

"We have two felony warrants for him, and he's not been arrested yet," Det. Chris Fitzpatrick of the Ann Arbor Police Department said today.


T.J. Rice is wanted by police for illegally operating a marijuana dispensary in downtown Ann Arbor.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Fitzpatrick said the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office has decided to pursue charges against Rice based on an investigation by the city police department.

The charges stem from a March 14, 2010, incident in which city police investigated a complaint about Rice's dispensary and confiscated numerous marijuana plants.

Rice is being charged with one count of delivery or manufacture of a controlled substance, a four-year felony, and one count of possession with intent to deliver, also a four-year felony.

Additionally, Rice remains under investigation by the Livingston and Washtenaw Narcotics Enforcement Team, also known as LAWNET, police confirmed. A representative of LAWNET declined to comment, saying it doesn't comment on pending investigations.

Rice recently was featured in an article in which he talked about his dispensary being raided by city police last March. Authorities offered no clear reason at the time why Rice was not charged with a crime, even though his marijuana was seized and never returned.

Fitzpatrick explained why it took nearly a full year to bring charges against Rice.

"I think the department wanted to take a wait-and-see attitude with the current political state," he said, noting the law around medical marijuana dispensaries remains hazy. "The city and the state are still sorting out the law, so that was the reason. It was a wait-and-see."

The Ann Arbor City Council made amendments to a pending medical marijuana ordinance Monday night to say that drug felons are prohibited from operating dispensaries in Ann Arbor. Rice is considered a drug felon because he was convicted of growing marijuana in his backyard in the city of Manistique in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in the late 1990s.

Though the state law on medical marijuana says nothing about dispensaries, City Attorney Stephen Postema said it clearly prohibits drug felons from being caregivers, and so the city is extending that prohibition to dispensary owners.

Rice opened his dispensary in February 2010. Over the last year, nearby tenants have reported negative experiences with Rice in the building. He acknowledged he's now being evicted.

Police Chief Barnett Jones told in January that Rice was unable to produce paperwork indicating he could legally operate a dispensary when police visited his office last year. Rice acknowledged that he wasn't a state-registered medical marijuana caregiver or patient, but he was still smoking and distributing marijuana.

Rice said he stands behind voter-approved amendments to the city charter in 2004 that allow the use of medical pot — so long as someone has a doctor's note for it.

The charter states: "No Ann Arbor police officer, or his or her agent, shall complain and the city attorney shall not refer for prosecution any complaint, of the possession, control, use, giving away, sale or cultivation of marijuana or cannabis upon proof that the defendant is recommended by a physician, practitioner or other qualified health professional to use or provide the marijuana or cannabis for medical treatment."

A cancer survivor with a degenerative spine who lives on Social Security disability, Rice has more than one doctor's note recommending pot.

But local authorities say state law trumps the city's charter, and Rice is violating the law by not following the guidelines of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

Rice said today he's seeking the advice of an attorney.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.


fight hunger

Wed, Jun 1, 2011 : 12:22 a.m.

goodluck dude


Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 6:08 p.m.

I'm with Dave Briegel on stopping the madness. If we have that many extra police to work this kind of case yet haven't made progress on catching gun wielding criminals on campus then lay off more police. We need to investigate and capture the violent criminals in this city, not those non criminals that are helping the infirmed and hopelessly in pain. How many of you against Medical Marijuana ever studied prohibition in this country. Lose lose situation from all points.


Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 12:24 a.m.

I keep hearing and reading where people are saying that dispensaries are a violation of the MMMA, but I have yet to find what section it's in. I could not even find the word dispensary on any page, in any statue. It would have been nice had the city presented Rice with a stop order first. If he is wrong, so are all the other shops in A2. If I remember from the other story, Rice lost 9K to the police department, not the city is telling him he most close his business. How much more punishment does the man need? To pack LAWNET on top is overkill. What else will this man have to forfeit? Hopefully LAWNET is just a threat to keep Rice quite, which sounds like a good idea.

Blanch DuBois

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 9:55 p.m.

"Ask your doctor if drug "xyz" is right for you." How many times a day, on average, do you hear THAT message?!


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 4:35 p.m.

I think Mr. Rice has a valid point. If cities can ban medical cannabis, over state law then why wouldn't Ann Arbor's charter also trump state law. Look folks you can't have it both ways. If a court rules against him , its still a win since that would indicate cities with bans are trumped by state law. Without civil disobedience this country takes forever to invoke change.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:03 p.m.

Good news, shut him down ! Good Day


Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 6:14 p.m.

While you're at it shut down all alcohol and prescription drug sales also.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 6:56 a.m.

"wasting tax payer money"-?? I don't think so. First of all, it's (again!) the A2 city government confusing itself with state and federal government - inviting and encouraging people like Mr. Rich (who appears to have both a medical condition and an "attitude problem") to grow - sell - dispense (what have you) marijuana. I've been acquainted with a lot of people who claim that marijuana is "harmless" over the decades: not a one of them was / is worth a damn. They are all "dedicated non-participants" when it comes to having good (and steady) jobs, when it comes to caring for others (including their own families) and especially: when it comes to sound thinking! Just because these pot user / advocates have gained a foothold and a little popularity here in "trendy Ann Arbor" - doesn't mean we have to let them avoid at least some of the consequences for their own foolishness. The term "pipe dreams" derives from the old practice of smoking opium in a pipe, the same "pipe dreams" can be used to describe the idea pot smokers have about flouting the law and making a buck at the same time. This has nothing to do with legitimate medical use.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:12 a.m.

Marijuana is the safest drug with actual benefits for the user as opposed to alcohol which is dangerous, causes addiction, birth defects, and affects literally every organ in the body. Groups are organizing all over the country to speak their minds on reforming pot laws. I drew up a very cool poster for the cause which you can check out on my artist's blog at <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Drop in and let me know what you think!


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 12:25 a.m.

State law says that if you are Felon you cannot participate in the Marijuana business. State law says child molesters can not be teachers for children. There are some convicted felons who would probably do fine running a dispensery or being a caregiver. There are some convicted child molesters who would probably do fine being a teacher. The problem is the law in both cases is pretty black and white. I suspect most people here who are in favor of gray areas in the first law are not very interested in gray areas in the second. So should we selectively enforce laws? (yes, I know we do now in many cases). If the law is wrong, it should be fixed. We should not choose to ignore one law and enforce another. Don't like what happened here, help make a better law. The police should enforce all laws the same way for all people, that is the only way to be fair and provide a clear line between &quot;its Ok&quot; and &quot;its not OK&quot;.

David Briegel

Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 4:21 a.m.

Don, you are smart enough to know that is exactly what is happening today! There are countless examples.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 8:05 a.m.

So you support selective enforcement? Wonderful!

David Briegel

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 4:24 a.m.

I don't know on what planet that utopia exists but it has no resemblance to the nation in which I reside. All of our laws are selectively enforced in favor of the privileged class and to the detriment of the less fortunate amongst us. It is not as if we ignore one law and enforce another. We simply don't enforce some of our sacred laws depending upon which class of individual breaks that law! If only &quot;Justice&quot; was equal under our laws!


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 12:12 a.m.

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that the public be put on proper notice as to what the proscribed conduct is so that they may comply, otherwise the criminal enactment is void for vagueness. Detective Fitzpatrick has conceded the vagueness of the law. That said, it is also clear that the City of Ann Arbor cannot legalize what the County Prosecutor wishes to enforce under the Controlled Substances Act or Medical Marijuana Act. Same goes with federal drug laws against possession and sale of marijuana. What the City of Ann Arbor can do, however, is pass a resolution via its City Council in support of Mr. Rice so that pressure can be put on the County Prosecutor so that this most unpleasant prosecution can be concluded.

Mr. Burns

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 12:03 a.m.

I know it's an old comment, but alcohol addiction and even casual alcohol use is much more harmful to society. My 53 year old brother is currently slowly dying of long term alcohol abuse. It's a horrible way to live and it's a horrible way to watch someone you love and grew up with slowly die a gross painful death. Pot on the other hand is sad because it can make a potentially great person pretty lazy, but that is about all. And most pot smokers I have known in my lifetime just smoke pot. And from what I have seen when people start to get into harder drugs they leave Pot behind. Alcohol is THE &quot;Gateway Drug&quot;. The alcohol industry is powerful and they love that pot is coined as the &quot;gateway drug&quot;. I also think people who drink every night after work or dinner are walking a more blurred line of addiction than someone who does a few bong hits in the evening. Not to mention the medical benefits of pot. What a waste of a year of investigating. Lawnet needs to concentrate on stopping the meth and heroin.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 5:09 a.m.

yea ... but ... &quot;stopping the meth and heroin&quot; dealers shoot BACK! pot delalers LAY back so are safer targets. but you knew that .....


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 11:18 p.m.

I hope we can all hash this one out.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 10:25 p.m.

I agree tj is harmless and (somewhat reckless), however prosecuting him would be pointless. Confiscation was punishment enough. They should leave him alone.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 10:18 p.m.

Gads, don't let Royal Oak get ahead of us. They just busted the Hash Bash organizer for the same thing. How much money will it cost the city to prosecute? If he asks for a Jury trial, will he be convicted? Not by me.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 12:15 a.m.

The County Prosecutor is bringing this, so it will cost the City of Ann Arbor only the A2 Police Dept. costs in investigating, not City Attorney expenses. So why does not John Hieftje just call his policedepartment and tell them to pull the plug on the case?


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 9:37 p.m.

News flash: it was just brought to my attention that certain city council members and the mayor are aware of and are supporting a plan that would basically pit the city of ann arbor against the state in a legal battle wherein the city attorney would be in the position of defending the licensed dispensaries into being grandfathered against having to comply with any statewide ban against dispensaries. I really want my tax dollars supporting greedy monopoly seeking dispensary Owner's retirement plan. Meanwhile the patients and caregivers who are the backbone of the community are being persecuted by the city ordinance that was designed by dispensary owners, using fear as a tool to manipulate the city officials into a monopoly. This all started in october 2010 when a certain dispensary owner went in front of city council and said that their would be a dispensary on every corner if they didn't do something. Hint: now we are all getting the ream.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 9:34 p.m.

Oh no! He was selling dried plant material not proven harmful!

David Briegel

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 9:28 p.m.

Stop the Madness! Maybe we don't need all these police after all! Lay off more of them!!! They can't catch the real criminals anyway! This American criminal behavior is funding the slaughter of 39,000 Mexicans and American DEA, border patrol and innocent people. Aren't we proud?

David Briegel

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 4:32 a.m.

buggy, you and I agree on that one! I have said Legalize Now many, many times!


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 9:33 p.m.

All the better reason to fully and completely legalize marijuana. Marginalize pot use thru legalization. Take the thrill of it being taboo out of the equation.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 9:26 p.m.

I love how the state doesn't allow dispensaries, but Ann Arbor does.


Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 6:11 p.m.

What happened to the over 60% of voters? &quot;by the people, for the people&quot;


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 9:48 p.m.

right on treetown - ann arbor making up their own rules as usual


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 9:21 p.m.

Rice was never a caregiver or qualifying patient under the mmm act. Let's be clear he was not supposed to be operating a dispensary. Most likely City council was aware of the action against Rice today because that would explain their run for cover and pre-occupation with criminal background checks last night at the council meeting. I wonder if they even know that every caregiver already has been given a criminal background check and a permit from the state. Or that dispensaries are illegal under the state act. Soon all of the dispensaries that have been allowed to open will be legislated illegal by the state ;and all the time and money spent drowning in the incompetence of the city attorneys office will be null and void.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 8:32 p.m.

&quot;Fitzpatrick explained why it took nearly a full year to bring charges against Rice. &quot;I think the department wanted to take a wait-and-see attitude with the current political state,&quot; he said, noting the law around medical marijuana dispensaries remains hazy. &quot;The city and the state are still sorting out the law, so that was the reason. It was a wait-and-see.&quot;&quot; So amendments that were just passed are the excused to go forward with something that occurred a year ago? WTH does the City Charter Amendments have to do with the State and /or Federal law? That makes no sense. Does this make Mr. Rice a political prisoner?

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 5:05 a.m.

well of COARSE ... (intended). nothing FINE with enforcement likte this.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 8:28 p.m.

This is a total and complete waste of taxpayer resources. Keep the machine greased with cash and let em roll us all up.

paul wiener

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 8:24 p.m.

If this is the kind of trivial garbage taxpayers are paying law enforcement to waste their time on, even in an &quot;enlightened&quot; place like A2, the country is going to hell even faster than I imagined. Go ahead, drive healthy smoking all underground again, so big boys can play cop and the rest of us can play criminal. Better the profits go to the growers than the government, anyway.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 9:06 p.m.

Exactly, they could have been out on an undercover operation to recover a stolen cell phone.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 8:07 p.m.

Well the Mayor thinks he's ok....isn't that enough???? (quote from article 1.23.11) Rice has Mayor John Hieftje on his side. &quot;If someone was convicted back in 1997 for growing a few marijuana plants, I see no reason why that should preclude him from participating in what's now a growing business area today many years later,&quot; Hieftje said.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 5:04 a.m.

wouldn;t the decriminalization &quot;disolve&quot; somehow teh earlier situation into a moot status of some sort, or something like that? not if the earier situation were, oh, say, meth-cooking which is illegal, but what about 'all is forgiven' ?

Atticus F.

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

Sounds like this guy is really trying to push the envelope, as far as the medical mj licensing goes.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 5 a.m.

&quot;A cancer survivor with a degenerative spine who lives on Social Security disability, ...&quot; isn;at able to do much pushing.