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Grand Rapids, Michigan, Just Raided Every Dispensary in Town

December 6, 2016
With little warning, seven medical cannabis dispensaries in and around Grand Rapids, Michigan, were raided by law enforcement teams last week.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Department, which covers the Grand Rapids region, released a list of the locations that were raided and shut down:

  • Michigan Relief Hub: 4920 Plainfield Ave NE
  • The Third Day: 4981 Plainfield Ave NE
  • (Unnamed dispensary): 5000 block of Circle Dr. NE
  • (Unnamed dispensary): 5400 block of Pine Island Dr. NE
  • Red Jasper: 3926 West River Dr. NE
  • (Unnamed dispensary): 1200 block of Taylor Ave NW
  • Green State Caregiving: 530 76th St. SW, #600

Law enforcement officials seized cash and cannabis products that were in the shop at the time of the raids, resulting in a significant financial loss for the dispensaries.

The Kent County Area Narcotics Enforcement Team claimed that the raided dispensaries were conducting illegal sales. “We have found evidence that these dispensaries continue to operate illegally even in violation of the newly passed Michigan House bills (MMFLA),” read the statement from police.


A Brief Guide to Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Legislation

Michigan passed its medical marijuana law in 2008, but the law remained murky, without clear definition as to whether dispensaries are legal. The law also left the legality of other cannabis products, like edibles and concentrates, uncertain.

In September, Gov. Rick Snyder signed several laws (known collectively as the MMFLA) to create a framework for legal medical cannabis dispensaries. The state will now require an operating license to grow, process, sell, transport and test cannabis. The new laws also legalize the use of infused cannabis products, such as edibles and topicals, and imposes a three percent tax on the gross retail income of a cannabis business.


Michigan Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Tax, Regulations

These bills were designed specifically to protect medical cannabis companies and dispensaries, which have been operating in a legal gray area. However, those new laws won’t go into effect until late December. It remains unclear whether the “illegality” of the raided dispensaries resides in the fact that they’re operating a few weeks prior to the new law kicking in.

Although there were initial reports that Drug Enforcement Administration officials were involved in the raids, Sgt. Johnson denied those reports. He told Leafly that the entire operation was conducted by local authorities with the Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team, and has nothing to do with the DEA.


New DEA Report Finds Cannabis is Least of America’s Drug Worries

There have been reports that dispensary owners were warned to cease and desist or expect a raid. A news release from the Kent County Sheriff’s Department stated that the dispensaries were previously investigated and given verbal and written warnings.

Steven Mathew, owner of The Third Day dispensary, one of the top-rated dispensaries in Michigan, contested that claim. “We went to the DEA, we went to Plainfield Township, and we told them we were opening a shop,” Mathew told Leafly. “They kind of shook their head no, but said yes at the same time.”

Kent County Sgt. E.J. Johnson largely agreed with Mathew’s version of events. Johnson said the owners of Third Day approached Plainfield Township and told them of their newly opened dispensary, and received his warning. “We advised him, what you’re doing is illegal and if we get enough complaints, we will have to act on them.” Mathew and his uncle, Rick Cope, opened the Third Day dispensary in July of this year and had been in continuous operation ever since.


Want to Open a Dispensary in Detroit? This Map Will Blow Your Mind

The only real warning came in the form of raids on a nearby dispensary, The Provision Center, now known as the Michigan Relief Hub, owned by Sue Bond. “We raided her dispensary twice in Kentwood and again last November,” said Sgt. Johnson.

“She was raided, week after week, so that was her warning,” Steven Mathew told Leafly. “We never had any warning.”

“She was warned a number of times,” Sgt. Johnson said of Sue Bond and her dispensary, “but she refuses to comply.”

A paralegal with a background in cannabis law, Sue Bond owns Michigan Relief Hub in Grand Rapids, and was in the process of opening a new medical cannabis operation in Florida. In fact, she was in Florida doing reconnaissance for her new business last week when the raids occurred. Law enforcement officials called her and convinced her to fly back to Michigan, where she was arrested at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.


Congratulations, Florida. Now You’re In for a Fight

According to Sgt. Johnson, Sue Bond is now facing up to seven felony charges, each of which carry a 20-year sentence. But, says Sgt. Johnson, “It has nothing to do with the drug.” Rather, the charges are all related to illegal finances – specifically, racketeering and money laundering, among others.

Michigan Relief Hub has been boarded up with a sign that says the dispensary is now permanently closed. Sue Bond has been released from jail on bond and is currently awaiting trial, but has thus far, been unavailable for comment.

Steven Mathew told Leafly that he and his uncle are planning to reopen The Third Day dispensary as soon as possible, despite the loss of cash and product confiscated by the police.

“My uncle is having a meeting with Plainfield Township,” Mathew said. “He’s going to sit down with them and see if we can work out some kind of written agreement. We understand they had to do it this way, but we want to continue on the right path.”


Federal Court to DEA: Hands Off Medical Marijuana Providers

Protesters gathered outside the Plainfield Township Hall on Friday to protest the raids. That city’s township board has not taken action for or against medical marijuana since 2011, when the board voted to ban dispensaries.

“The police officers even told us that they had a hard time getting a warrant because we were doing things up to par,” said Third Day owner Mathew. “It was basically, if one person is getting in trouble, we’re all getting in trouble.”

“If one person is getting in trouble, we're all getting in trouble.”
Steven Mathew, Co-Owner, Third Day

Curiously, Third Day was robbed the night before the raid, but no cash or cannabis was taken. Instead, the thieves seized the store’s tablet computers, toilet paper, paper towels, and, incidentally, some Star Wars memorabilia.

Although Mathew has his suspicions that the robbery was related to the raid, the loss of revenue and product from the police action is a much harder blow to recover from. “Right now, we’re just trying to figure out why it happened and then we’re going to move on. And,” he added, “open back up as soon as possible.”

Sgt. Johnson remains hopeful that the dispensaries will be able to open in a legal, compliant manner once the new state regulations take effect. “We’ve been under a lot of pressure and received a lot of tips, from observers, and upset former employees, from businesses and citizens,” he said. “It needs to stop unless they start obeying the law.”

“We’re not picking on them,” he said of the closed dispensaries. “We’ve been forced to do it. We have enough issues with heroin and cocaine on the streets and kids overdosing. Hopefully, they’ll start doing things right and operating lawfully.”

Lisa Rough's Bio Image

Lisa Rough

Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.

View Lisa Rough's articles

  • lovingc

    Have you useless LEO’s got your rocks off now? This harassing behavior is not conducive to your troops staying alive.The more harassment the more targets on your backs.
    Solve the real crimes leave people alone and do your duty. If you have any unsolved murders or any unsolved violent crimes the raids you did are a crime in and of themselves. Focus on the real crimes and let the nonviolent ones slide until the violent crimes are solved and the culprits are in jail.

    • Kenneth Aaron

      Emboldened by the recent rout by the toddler of the Intelligent Parent Party.

      • hyjyljyj

        Hahaha, the so-called intelligent ones got outsmarted, again and again. What does that tell you?

        Nothing, obviously. LOL

        • Karma911

          Well, it tells me that there is something seriously wrong with our system.

      • SanDiegoSteve

        Bullshit, that has nothing to do with it. Many republicans smoke weed. Duh.

        • Robert Smith

          I am a republican and I voted for Trump. I have smoking for about 55 years, off and on. Today’s product is a hell of a lot better that anything was that long ago.

      • lovingc

        Reality dipstick.

  • James Tozer

    Author, your title and picture is extremely misleading…Grand Rapids had nothing to do with it…the Kent County Sherrifs department is responsible for these raids….I’ve talked to GR city cops who said they would never do anything like this …so you should change the title to say Kent County instead of Grand Rapids and change the picture to the right organization.

  • David Schroeter

    We should note, the law that allows dispensaries goes into effect in December, but does not allow for applying for the license until December 2017, over a year from now. Many of these patients have no access without driving over an hour away, with no warning to the patients.

  • Kenneth Aaron

    63% at the time of the original vote years ago, and maybe over 70% now, Michiganders in favor of Medical Marijuana availability. Regardless of whose side one is on, Democracy takes a blow each time another sanctioned robbery, like these occurs.

    • Dale Zalaoras

      Thank God we are not a Democracy.

      “Democracy is the most vile form of government.”
      ― James Madison

      • Izzat So

        “Democracy is coming to the USA”.
        — Leonard Cohen

        • Dale Zalaoras

          “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for dinner.

          Liberty is a well armed lamb contesting the vote.”

          Benjamin Franklin

          • Stan The Man

            “…the United States is not a democracy, it’s what’s called in the technical literature, a polyarchy”
            -Noam Chomsky

            And that’s not a quote from Benjamin Franklin. It’s right libertarian, James Bovard.

          • Dale Zalaoras

            Voltaire distrusted democracy, which he saw as propagating the idiocy of the masses

            And that’s not a quote from James Bovard

  • Paschn

    As with the Judas Class outlawing the sale by farmers of alcohol to run vehicles to appease their masters in big oil, (prohibition), check into the same Judas Class’s whore-like actions in outlawing Cannabis to protect primarily kosher pharma but their masters in other facets of big business.
    Remember, Ford not only built an automobile from hemp based materials, he actually made a renewable fuel from same to run it on. I also suggest folks watch kosher Monsanto’s movements as they themselves have a charter (paraphrase) No food will be grown we don’t own. As for the Israeli-trained LEO’S? they’re nothing more than treasonous thugs sanctioned by a co-opted government who’ll do anything for a pat on the head and a promotion. Same type of weasels they used in the ’60’s to infiltrate peaceful demonstrations, commit acts of violence, thus giving their fellow traitors the excuses they needed to attack. People need to get away from the “cops are heroes” paradigm. Cops are NOT heroes, they’re shills. Shills as much to their masters as the Judas Class are shills to those they receive their 30 pieces of silver from.

  • painkills2

    Just like when law enforcement closes down pain clinics and leaves thousands of patients with nowhere to turn, shutting down dispensaries is like shutting down a Walgreens. Except there’s a Walgreens on every corner. Finding a quality dispensary (or a good pain doctor) takes a lot of time and money — when it’s even possible.

    I understand these task forces make a lot of money off the drug war, but isn’t it time the police treated pot like they treat cigarettes? The drug war and the underground market go hand-in-hand. Patients who depend on a dispensary (or a pain doctor) will go elsewhere when a source shuts down, especially for cannabis.

    As a 30-year intractable pain patient who has been forced to rely on the underground market, I applaud law enforcement going after a plant. The drug war just increases the size of the underground market, giving me more choices. Thanks, DEA.

  • Karma911

    I am not sure I agree with the timing of these raids. If the rule framework is not ready, yet, it would be premature to close these dispensaries, and leave patients without access to medicine. IT would be wrong.
    Having said that, there are a lot of bad businesses out there who are only contributing to the problem, and the marijuana stigma. Those who refuse to comply with the law–particularly if laundering money–need to go, and need to go fast. The time to be lawless in this industry has passed, and hopefully we will not need to be rebels any longer. Move on and grow (not only the plant, but yourself too.)

    • Chefsteve42

      I know people that went to these places, and a lawyer actually owns several of them, not one that I know of is crooked. They are all above the board. Problem is this part of the state is known for it’s medical, and medical marijuana cut’s into that business.

  • Jerry Schull

    This is why people dislike cops. They had a hard time getting the warrant? As long as cops stay on the side of ignorance and policing for profit they will be disliked.

  • Excuse me

    They seized cash. Well, there it is. When are police forces and government agencies going to be required to use due process and regular courts to seize property?

  • SanDiegoSteve

    Exactly what does heroin and cocaine use have to do with medical marijuana? Answer: Not a damn thing. Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics.

  • Robert Woodruff

    I’m still not very clear on how the PD can conduct this operation without a proper warrant. The Author did not indicate what the Warrant said, what they were looking for, why they were there. Even Pot shops are not exempt from Illegal Search and Seizure, a constitutionally protected right.

  • Chefsteve42

    Funny, Grand Rapids is the only place in the state that finds “bad” dispensaries, even though the state is full of them. The reason is, because west Michigan (Grand Rapids) is also known for it’s medical/hospitals and doesn’t like to compete with a medicine that actually works. Instead they like getting people hooked on Prescription Medications.

    • andyk304

      It’s not Grand Rapids, but the Kent County Sherriff’s Department, which only has very limited jurisdiction within the City of Grand Rapids. Of all of the locations this bust took down, only one- in the 1200 block of Taylor- is even in GR. The rest are all in unincorporated areas of the county without their own police forces, and it looks like all of those are in Grand Rapids Township, northeast of the city proper.

    • Ivan Mire Swan

      multiple shops in gaylord have been raided over and over, in vanderbilt, in brimley, etc. it really isn’t just G. R.

  • Laura P. Schulman

    If they have so much trouble with “heroin and cocaine on the streets, and kids overdosing,” why doesn’t Sgt. Johnson call his dogs off the dispensaries and focus his energies on getting rid of organized crime? Oh wait, I forgot! Legal marijuana has been shown to significantly cut down on narcotic use. Cutting into the “drug war’s” profits, no doubt…now THAT’S something the cops have a vested interest in.

  • Selling cannabis to sick people whose doctor has recommended it does not justify the Kent County prosecutors attempt to destroy the industry in Grand Rapids. Dying and very sick people rely on this medicine, I know because I am one. This does not help a public whose majority has said “leave it alone, we are using it to stay well.” Stop this evil villainy your bigotry and predjudice are creating. I hope you all find yourselves without jobs in the very near future. You are harming the sick and ill. There is no justice here.

  • pdqBach

    Cash and power grab is typical behavior when LE is corrupted. Whatever happened to “due process” and “innocent until proven guilty”?

    • Civil forfeiture laws allow LE to take what they want and the prescription for this highway robbery says you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent. Its criminal in and of itself (forfeiture laws) as are the people that allow and push for it to continue. These are not criminal cartels. The ones doing the forfeiture fit that description in this case.

      • Robert Smith

        Follow the Money, is alive and well. As long as it’s the “government” then it’ ok to raid and steal. What the hell kind of a message does that send to all citizens, especially the younger generation. Thieves with a badge. IT DOES NOT MAKE IT OK TO RAID AND STEAL OTHERS MONEY AND WORK PRODUCT.

  • kristine08

    This is terrible and I fear now it can happen in any state.

  • brock kellstrom

    Kent county sheriffs office has been raiding dispensaries for years now. Not the GRPD, but the sheriffs office. This is 100% political. It’s not about a cash grab or because of any threat to society. Those with political access pressure the sheriffs office to act. Grand Rapids is the most conservative city in the state. As soon as the Governor signed the bills that outlined what compliance will be it was no longer a grey area. There is no compliance currently in the state, only tolerance. And Kent county has NEVER been tolerant when it comes to dispensaries. Everyone involved knew the risk they took when they decided to open. It’s unfortunate, but not a surprise to anyone that has been apart of care centers in GR. The sheriff’s office has been raiding and closing dispensaries ever since the first one opened in 2011.

  • Marinesharpshot

    Good Grief! When will the madness Stop!

  • Geoff Jacobs

    Even though the NEW law goes into effect at a future date, the EXISTING dispensaries should have been GRANDFATHERED or at the very least, given a TEMPORARY PERMIT to operate until the NEW law went into effect.
    This is a problem exacerbated by the jurisdiction that enacted the law and they should be sued!!

  • ohshitlisa
  • mrd28s

    Third day was the perfect business model for the industry in Michigan! Before they even opened, they did everything concievable to comply, and crossed every T and dotted every I. Their discression went above and beyond what was required for the community. They never had any indication of what the business was from outside other than a “Third Day” sign for kids to see, no green cross, no canabis signs, and locked doors so anyone that accidently walked in would not see the type of business it was. There was no way of getting access to the sales room, without PROVING you were a patient with verifying medical card and pictured ID, NO EXCEPTIONS!! They were professional and knowledgeable for the patients needs, and took the time to personally explain the differences and benifits in each product for medical issues. Third Day really showed they actually CARED for their patients more then any other dispensaries I’ve been to in GR, Lansing and Detroit, and also by far the most compliant to the laws as legally possible!

    It is unbelieveable and sad that Kent County has so little compassion and respect for it’s ailing citizens that require medicine, that they close down ALL of the dispenseraries, the only way for most to get their needed medicine, to get in their one last cash grab before the new laws take effect. They not only stole the money from the businesses, but stole the tax revenue from the Grand Rapids area schools that desperately needed it! (BTW the cash grab isn’t shared with them, just law inforcement)

  • Robert Bedette

    They must have been shopping for the Annual Sheriff’s Christmas Party…

  • Jeff Barber

    Clear lack of support from law enforcement and zero oversight from the State.
    Ridiculous attempts by indigent counties trying to exploit grey areas in cannabis laws. Aren’t law enforcement supposed to support and enforce? They are opposed to the law therefore they do all they can to devalue it.

  • Kenny H

    Just like when the cops raid a house for weed, they let anyone who will give up information for another raid target go without even a warning. They go in, take everything of value, scare the sh*t out of everyone so they rat on someone, then go on to the next house. Policing for profit. Its not a coincidence that they ramp up these asset seizures as soon as a law is about to pass that will make it harder for them to raid legally. Disgusting and shameful.

  • Z54

    Gee, now when you walk into the Grand Rabid Police Department, they’ll be smoking joints and playing cards with the money they stole from the dispensaries! To protect and plunder!

  • Robert Smith

    Typical of the government to do things like this. It shows just how greedy they are. As long as the Govt. is getting all they can, then they are OK with it. Here in Oregon it is a cluster. even though medical and recreational is legal statewide, the counties can pass local laws that are different than the state law. Talk about a mess. It seems like as long as they are getting all the money they can they don’t care. And how about the enforcement of these laws. Impossible. Only chance encounters get any attention. It is not only disgusting, but how does one respect the law or the government when their only interest is to get as far into the citizens pockets as they can.

  • MittenCare

    “We have enough issues with heroin and cocaine on the streets and kids overdosing.”

    FUCK Sgt. E.J. Johnson!!!

  • Rolling Stoner

    Just another jack-booted cash grab by the thugs with badges and guns. SMH

  • What!?!??

    I heard a tip from multiple observers that Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team and the Kent Sheriffs were taking the cannabis seized and selling it on the black market for half the price.

    Let’s get a warrant, raid their department and seize their equipment.

  • hugh bell

    Remember: It is not government “by the people and for the people” — it is government at the expense of the people. If government had the best interests of the people in mind then that government would be funding research so as to unlock the healing potentials stored in this amazing healing plant–the cannabis plant.