In a scene that has played out twice in the past eight months, raids were conducted Tuesday at Oakland County medical marijuana dispensaries.
This time the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency led the operation, and they included homes and a bar in their searches.
“Multiple search warrants were executed as part of an ongoing investigation,” said Rich Issacson of the DEA.
One of the search warrants was executed at the Commerce Township home of Romel and Ban Casab, a couple that a reporter for The Oakland Press met recently at the Caregivers of America dispensary in Walled Lake — another of the locations raided on Tuesday.
This raid appears to be the first conducted by the DEA in the county. The other two raids — one Aug. 25, 2010, in Ferndale and Waterford Township, and another Jan. 12 in Oak Park — were led by a county drug enforcement task force.
The Oakland Press staffer was invited to the dispensary by Ban Casab for a story about medical marijuana ordinances and dispensaries within the county. After speaking with a man in another room, Ban abruptly canceled the interview and kicked the reporter out of the building.
The operation at 1020 Decker Road — which was issued a certificate of occupancy by the city of Walled Lake — resembled a candy store with a counter full of edible candies and walls lined with marijuana merchandise, including bongs and other paraphernalia.
The Casabs are a prominent couple in the Metro Detroit area’s business community. Romel Casab is listed as the owner of Caregivers of America on LinkedIn.
A call placed to a phone number The Oakland Press had on file for Ban Casab was answered by a woman who said, “Have a great day” before hanging up.
DEA officials were able confirm that raids took place at several locations, including the Casab’s home, the Walled Lake dispensary, a second Caregivers of America location at 45700 W. 12 Mile Road in Novi, and the Bayside Sports Grill at 142 E. Walled Lake Drive in Walled Lake.
Messages left for Caregivers of America were not returned by press time Tuesday.
A man answering the phone at the Bayside Sports Grill said, “We have no comment at this time.”
Other media outlets have reported that as many as eight raids took place throughout Metro Detroit on Tuesday, including at other homes, a location in Romulus and a strip club in the city of Detroit.
The address of 11300 E. 8 Mile Road in Detroit, listed online as the Coliseum Adult Entertainment, was confirmed as a searched location by the DEA, though a person answering the phone there said no raid had taken place.
The DEA confirmed that multiple warrants were issued, including several in Oakland County, but released few other details.
“This is a brand new investigation; we can’t say anything at this point,” said Andrew Eiseman, group supervisor for the DEA’s Detroit field division.
No information on arrests or confiscated items was released Tuesday, though a U-Haul truck driven by police arrived at the Decker Road dispensary around 9 a.m. Tuesday.
“I have been in this facility within the last few days and I didn’t really see them doing anything out of compliance,” said Michael Grant, an industry liaison for medical marijuana in Michigan who showed up at the Decker location to speak with reporters. “I was carded properly when I walked in, IDs were checked, so it seems to me they were following the law as far as me entering the building.”
Grant said the Walled Lake dispensary had a grow-room facility as well as “what we call a head shop or distribution device dealership.”
He noted that there are several dispensaries in the area that have not been raided.
“What was going on behind the doors could be the reason for what’s happening,” Grant said of the Walled Lake raid.
Grant added that the building may be as large as 55,000 square feet and previously housed an indoor motorcycle track.
Employees of businesses located near the Walled Lake facility reported seeing activity about 7:25 a.m. Tuesday.
“We just saw somebody banging on the building trying to get in,” said Tom West of Fastdecks, a concrete company located across the street from the Walled Lake dispensary.
Another employee of a nearby business, Joe, who asked his last name not be used, said the officers he saw had no weapons drawn but were wearing bulletproof vests.
“When I came in, (police officers) were standing shoulder-to-shoulder across the entire front of the building,” Joe said.
DEA officials did confirm that they are the lead agency conducting the raids and said assistance from other local agencies is being provided as well.
In Novi, a police officer sitting in his patrol car about 11 a.m. at the dispensary on 12 Mile Road said he’d been posted at the building’s driveway since 7 a.m.
DEA agents were moving in and out of the brown brick office building that houses the Caregivers of America Novi location.
Rick Thompson, editor of Oak Park-based Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, questioned some individuals who were raided.
“They’re not part of the medical marijuana community … When a shady business element uses a righteous group of individuals as a front for illegal business, it casts a dark cloud on the patients and people who are really using the act legally.”
Staff with the Walled Lake-based Ambrose Law Group, which represents medical marijuana dispensary clients, said their dispensary clients began calling the office at 9 a.m. today concerned about the DEA’s activities.
Walled Lake has five other dispensaries and none of those were raided, said Samantha Moffett, a business consultant.
“Obviously their concern is for their patients and their fears about wondering if (the dispensaries) would be open today,” Moffett said.
Moffett said Ambrose Law has no connections with Caregivers of America or the Casab family.
“People who are in this medical marijuana industry are taking a risk, putting themselves out there,” she said.
Someone had told her U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were also involved in the raids.
“I hope it turns out that there was a mistake and that there wasn’t illegal activity,” Moffett said.
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If you have questions about medical marijuana contact Samantha Moffett at (248) 624-5500 or visit our website www.ambroselawgroup.com