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The War on Drugs is alive and well in Kent County, after commissioners unanimously approve new anti-marijuana vehicle for drug search warrant raids

May 22, 2018

On Friday, MLive reported that the Kent County Sheriff’s office had recently order a, “rapid deployment vehicle” to combat violators of Michigan’s medical marijuana law and illegal grow operations.” Costing taxpayers $175,000, the Sheriff’s office had converted a Ford F-59 step van into a vehicle that would be used to, “deploy tactical teams for drug search warrant raids.”

According to MLive, about two thirds of the cost of this new anti-drug vehicle had come from the state of Michigan and the other $54,812 would come from the County’s Drug Forfeiture Fund. Like all law enforcement agencies, whenever they make drug-related arrests, they often seize assets belonging to those arrested – homes, boats, cars, tech equipment, money, etc.

Again, according to the MLive article:

In 2017, the multi-jurisdictional Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team conducted 613 marijuana-related arrests, confiscated 1,238 marijuana plants, seized about 138 pounds of marijuana, dismantled 26 marijuana-growing operations and inspected four medical marijuana facilities, according to the state grant request.

Only 138 pounds of marijuana was seized last year. That’s it? This is not a serious quantity of marijuana seized for the entire Kent County area. According to 2015 data, there are 636,369 people living in Kent County and only 138 pounds of marijuana was seized. This is an insignificant amount of marijuana, yet the county commissioners unanimously approved the use of taxpayer funds for a new anti-drug vehicle that will be used to deploy tactical teams for drug raids. How is this possible?

What makes this news even more astounding is that the entire 19 member Kent County Commission voted to approve this travesty.

On March 8th, the Kent County Commissioners adopted the following resolution:

Some may argue that there is no surprise with the majority Republican Commissioners voting for this resolution, but why did the five Democratic Commissioners support such a measure? In addition, why did a Democratic Commissioner introduce the legislation?

I asked former Kent County Commissioner Candace Chivis to comment on the decision by the current commissioners. Here’s what she had to say:

I think that it’s reprehensible that every democrat voted for this but my time on the board proved that democrats often give lip service to diversity and then vote in ways that hurt the black and Latino populations. I am not sure why Robert Womack would have introduced this and voted for it. It’s apparent that he didn’t think about his constituents at all when he voted for this. It makes me wonder how exactly he thinks he’s serving the community. 

Kent County is in the grips of a serious opiate crisis and they waste money on something as useless as this? Never mind that it’s a proven fact that state’s with medical marijuana have lower rates of opiate use. In the past year, I have seen people overdose in gas stations, fast food restaurants, on the street, in the library and in the park. Why isn’t Sheriff Stelma concentrating his energies on finding the heroin dealers instead of trying to put licensed marijuana growers out of business. 

The enactment of this policy is absurd, particularly since Marijuana use and possession has been decriminalized in the city of Grand Rapids. The board of commissioners, particularly their democratic members, obviously didn’t do their due diligence. 

What will this decision to deploy tactical teams for marijuana raids mean for medical marijuana growers and dispensers? What will this decision have for communities of color, who are disproportionately targets of drug raids and drug violations? It seems clear that the War on Drugs is alive and well in Kent County.

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