International Cannabis Business Conference

Michigan Marijuana Madness: Dennis Forsberg and the Okemos 7

Dennis Forsberg
One of Michigan’s Okenos 7, Dennis Forsberg says, ’You are not allowed to use any Michigan law in federal court.’

There is a palpable excitement in the United States among those seeking an end to the War on Marijuana. It’s all well and good to be stoked about the numerous accomplishments by reformers, because the long strides towards sane and rational marijuana policies, what with 20 U.S. states having legalized the use of medical marijuana and two legalizing it altogether, are laudable and give justifiable cause for hope. However, considering the ongoing maniacal federal efforts to bash heads, arrest patients and growers, and forfeit private property, it behooves citizens in those states to beware and careful.

The federal government doesn’t give a hoot in hell about what the voters had to say in the booths and legislatures Federal prohibition and Reefer Madness are still the laws of the land, trumping state law every day of the week.

What has happened to the Okemos 7 is a glaring, horrifying case in point. Following Michigan state law to the letter, the seven businessmen and citizens of the small Ingham County community were found guilty in May for their parts in a medical marijuana growing operation. Sentences range from one day in prison, which is suspended upon defendant Douglas Frakes’ successful completion of probation to one year for Dennis Corey; a year and a day for Patrick Karslake; three years each for Dennis Forsberg and his son Lance; two years for Kyle Corey; and four years for Ryan Bosore, who came up with the idea to start the operation in the first place. Three were also found guilty of growing marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school (another one of the hair-brained, repressive tactics used by the Feds to put a crimp in legalized marijuana in any form). Some were also levied fines in varying amounts.

The point is these men were obeying what is now law in the state of Michigan, thanks to the passage by voters of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act in 2008. Despite some backsliding on the law by such entities as the Michigan State Supreme Court, which ruled in February that patients cannot transfer pot to other patients, thereby putting a serious damper on operating dispensaries, it was legal in the state of Michigan to have and cultivate medical marijuana in 2010 when federal enforcers showed up in full riot gear, with helicopters and the works, at the different properties where the Okemos 7 had their marijuana growing. Not only were they obeying the law, but the men had been in contact with state and local officials, as well as attorneys and police, to be sure they were in compliance with the law. All their care and attention to detail was to no avail.

“You are not allowed to use any Michigan law in federal court,” 59- year-old Dennis Forsberg tells Bonnie Buequeroux in a video recorded shortly before he reported to federal prison in Butler, North Carolina, 13 hours away from his home and family, in late July and posted on YouTube. Forsberg explains in the clip below why he entered a guilty plea and did not take the case to trial: “We had three attorneys that went to the site, one was a federal attorney that said it was legal, and yet I was not allowed to use any of this evidence in federal court. So that is why they [the Feds] have a 95% conviction rate.”

“It seemed that every ‘i’ was dotted and every ‘t’ was crossed,” says Lance Forsberg in a separate video (recorded by Buequeroux, also just prior to his surrendering to federal authorities to begin a prison sentence in West Virginia, six hours from his home and family). He bemoans the fact that while Michigan voters spoke “with a clear voice” to legalize medical marijuana, the Feds still go in and prosecute, to “tell us we’re stupid, wrong, that we can’t write laws right and that we ought to be punished for it.”

Considering that Pres. Obama has been very open about his own use of marijuana while growing up in Hawaii, not to mention his 2008 campaign vow to respect local and state voters’ choices on medical marijuana, it’s shocking that apparently, according to a report by Americans for Safe Access, his administration has already spent $300 million to shut down medical marijuana operations in states which have legalized it. That's significantly more taxpayer money than Pres. George W. Bush spent to do the same.

“The cannabis was not the dangerous part,” Lance Forsberg says with 20/20 hindsight. “The law enforcement was.” He's right. There is an extreme danger for those who follow state laws allowing medical growing and use of marijuana of ending up in federal prison, rather than successfully harvesting a crop.

While the War on Marijuana is showing signs of grinding to a slow and painful halt, the prohibitionists are not willing to concede defeat just yet, and they still have control of the federal militarized police forces. Time and again the Feds have shown they are more than willing to sic their attack dogs on patients and providers. Still, despite the fear of being raided and arrested, many continue to brave such threats. These true freedom fighters are to be supported and applauded. There should never be another Okemos 7 facing prosecution for something that is legal by state law.

Preston Peet

Preston Peet

Editor of "Under the Influence, the Disinformation Guide to Drugs," former editor of DrugWar.com, and writer of numerous articles around the globe.