Trial delayed for medical marijuana caregiver facing criminal enterprise charges; 'Gray area' in laws

NOW: Trial delayed for medical marijuana caregiver facing criminal enterprise charges; ’Gray area’ in laws


CASS COUNTY, Mich. --- A man who’s licensed to grow medical marijuana in Michigan faced his criminal enterprise charges in Cass County court Monday.

It was 55-year-old Joseph Lorello’s pre-trial hearing. He is facing criminal enterprise charges for doing something he and his lawyers say was completely legal.

What’s not helping his case is that the laws concerning medical marijuana in Michigan are still a little hazy.

Seven other medical marijuana caregivers were growing marijuana on his properties and between the eight of them; they could have legally had close to 600 marijuana plants. While 827 plants were seized by Michigan State Police in the drug investigation that led to Lorello's arrest --Lorello said that number was misleading because seedlings and clones were counted as full plants.

Cass County prosecutor Victor Fitz said “collective grows” are not recognized by the state of Michigan, which is why Lorello is the only caregiver facing these criminal charges.

“The law is very clear in Michigan, it’s been over the course of the last decade there’s been a lot of case law that’s come down and again collective growing is not allowed,” Fitz said.

Lorello is still fighting against that statement alongside his lawyer, seven months after his initial arrest.

“There’s a lot of stuff that’s gray in medical marijuana, most of the other county allow [collective grows],” Lorello said.

The state confirms collective growing is a legal gray area. The Michigan Medical marijuana statute is silent on collective grows. Meaning it’s not mentioned once in the laws.

“A caregiver can only have plants for himself and for his four patients he cannot go in league with other persons to set up grow operations,” Fitz said.

Lorello maintains that Fitz is too harsh and that similar cases in Michigan have not had criminal enterprise charges filed.

“Whether it’s murder, home invasion, selling and manufacturing drugs,” Fitz said. “If you do it in a repetitive nature, with the same goal to sell the plants and make money, that potentially exposes someone to a criminal enterprise charge.”

Lorello still thinks it’s overcharging.

“There’s no doubt that it’s over charging,” Lorello said. “In any other county this would not be criminal enterprise. Some prosecutor’s go their whole careers without filing criminal enterprise charges.”

Lorello’s trial has been delayed another 90 days after his lawyer explained to the judge that his motion for the evidence or discovery had not yet been fulfilled.

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