Marijuana growers vindication after operation proven legal; charges dropped

- Call it a buzzkill for Detroit law enforcement. 

Two months ago, the authorities raided what they believed was a multi-million dollar, illegal marijuana grow operation in Detroit. But an attorney in the marijuana business now says the owners were operating illegally -- and all the charges have been dropped. 

A judge dismissed the case against the six people accused of running the massive grow op at 4473 W Jefferson.

"We knew that it had to go this way. Fundamental fair play, you come to expect that to a certain degree," says lawyer Thomas Lavigne. He represents Viola Brands, the cannabis company operating in southwest Detroit that police and federal agents raided back in May.

"The building department of the City of Detroit misinformed the police," Lavigne told us. "The police called the building department and asked what was up, and they gave the wrong answer, although it was the building department that had issued the certificate of occupancy and everything."

The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office says the court held that the defendants, Viola Employees, operated in good faith in complying with the law and the number of plants they could have inside the building, and it was on the City of Detroit to inform them about what was required - and it failed to do so. 

But Lavigne says Viola had less than the maximum of 1,500 plants in the building and all of its affairs, from its temporary state license to its certificate of occupancy, were in order.

RELATED: Million dollar marijuana bust by police in SW Detroit 

Lawrence Garcia from the City of Detroit's law department is doubling down,  saying DPD's enforcement action was appropriate and that the growing activity inside Viola Brands' building was illegal.

Even so, the invalidated drug bust and potentially looming legal fight is just another battle in Detroit's longstanding weed wars, of sorts. The city is now capping the number of medical marijuana facilities to 75, a move that could be rendered when voters decide if Michigan will legalize recreational marijuana in November.

"We're just happy that we're ending prohibition, and we were hoping for a smoother transition but I think this, if we take this as a lesson learned of what not to do, we can move forward with a more civilized approach, Lavigne says. 

Lavigne says the fence and the doors of their building were left open after DPD raided the place, and that someone came in and stole some expensive equipment. DPD says they'll look into it, and that they normally secure a property after a search warrant has been executed. Lavigne says they're considering suing for damages. 

As for all the marijuana plants that were seized, the police signed off on a release for those and Viola Brands can go through the procedure to pick up the marijuana. Lavigne says, though, he's not sure if DPD stores the plants property and that they could all potentially be useless now.

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