Medical marijuana grower finds no relief in federal law change

John Agar, Grand Rapids Press

A man charged in a marijuana grow operation hoped to have charges dismissed based on a new law preventing federal funds being used to go after legitimate medical-marijuana growers in states where it is legal.

He failed.

Meanwhile, the leader of the alleged group, Betty Jenkins, who police say had grow operations at homes on Forest Hill Avenue SE, Alden Nash Road in Lowell Township, Belding and two four-unit apartments in Gaines Township, is on trial in U.S. District Court in Kalamazoo.

Adam Rumpf disputed allegations he failed to comply with the state’s medical marijuana law. He said that a federal spending bill signed by President Barack Obama last month “blocks the Department of Justice from prosecuting medical marijuana patients that abide by state laws, now making this an illegal prosecution.”

Acting as his own attorney, he filed a brief saying he sought legal advice that “left the defendant to believe, that a prosecution in this (manner) is unlawful under the Constitution of The United States. The defendant further points to the fact that even the President of the United States of America has said the people, such as the defendant, will be left alone by the government so long as they reside in a state that allows this behavior.”

Rumpf did not get far.

He eventually pleaded guilty to maintaining a drug-involved premises, a potential 20-year offense.

“Nothing in this legislation has in any way undermined the prosecution of the defendant in this case,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Courtade said.

“The prosecution of Adam Rumpf is not an attempt by the Department of Justice to prevent the State of Michigan from implementing its own law. The government has not sought declaratory or injunctive relief nor does this prosecution stand in the way of Michigan vigorously enforcing its law. Moreover … (medical marijuana law) offers no defense to this federal prosecution even if defendant had been found in full compliance with the state law, which he was not.”

U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney said the spending bill governs funding for the Department of Justice but has no effect on federal drug laws or the court’s jurisdiction over such prosecutions.

“Thus, the spending bill does not (make) this now an illegal prosecution' as defendant asserts, nor does it make compliance or noncompliance with the (medical marijuana law) relevant to this prosecution.”

Marijuana advocates hailed the medical-marijuana provision in the spending bill as a “historic” measure.

"This is truly a long-fought victory for medical marijuana patients who have lived in fear of being caught in the crossfire of conflicting state and federal laws for nearly two decades," Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access said earlier.

In a plea agreement, Rumpf admitted he used a vacant apartment on Gaines Street to grow marijuana. He said that Jenkins and Phillip Joseph Walsh, who is also on trial in Kalamazoo, paid to install equipment, maintain the manufacturing operation and sell any harvested marijuana. He agreed that 132 plants and 3.5 pounds of processed marijuana were found.

Among the witnesses who have testified for the prosecution during the first two days of trial is Dr. Gregory Kudanek, who certified patients for use of medical marijuana despite not meeting all of them. He pleaded guilty to manufacturing fewer than 50 marijuana plants and forfeited property near Slayton Lake in Belding.