A recent report out of Lake County, Michigan has the cannabis world in an uproar, and for good reason: as news spread about an 80-year-old grandmother arrested for an expired medical marijuana card, anger spread as well.
Here’s what happened……
Delores Saltzman, of Clare County, went to jail (for the first time ever) because she was caught with cannabis inside her home. She’d previously had a valid medical marijuana license, but it’d expired.
She, along with her son, told a local news station that cannabis saved her life. It allowed her to eat when she had no appetite, it helped repair her body after surgery, and it managed her chronic pain from her perpetual health struggles (including arthritis, diverticulitis, muscle aches, and bone aches). In regard to the pain, specifically, she said, “After I smoke, I go down to a one, pain—wise. Before I smoke, I would say I’m at an eight right now.”
She further stated, “Cannabis saved my life because I had a bad bleed about four years ago and Mark (her son) took care of me.” She said that she was originally put on opiates, but the side effects of stomach pains and vomiting did too much damage to continue use.
The arrest occurred late in the evening on June 13 when Ashley Gruno, a Clare County Sheriff’s Deputy, showed up at the front door. Gruno was there looking for Saltzman’s great-granddaughter and hoping to return her lost phone and ID. The deputy smelled marijuana and asked whose it was; Saltzman said it was hers.
The deputy entered and took four joints, a jar with cannabis inside, and several pipes; Gruno also searched her bedroom, took photographs, and cleaned up her kitchen. When asked how much marijuana she had, Saltzman said it was less than an eighth of an ounce.
Afterward, Gruno handcuffed Saltzman and put her in a patrol car. She allegedly failed to read Saltzman her rights and whisked her off to jail for the night.
The Other Side
When Fox 17 reached out to Clare County to get their version of events, Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis responded with the following statement:
“Law enforcement went to Ms. Saltzman’s home looking for an individual who had been known to stay at that residence. When the deputy arrived, she could smell the odor of marijuana. When she interacted with Ms. Saltzman at the door, Ms. Saltzman admitted to have been smoking marijuana and possessing marijuana and that she had allowed her medical marijuana card to lapse. At that time, Ms. Saltzman turned over to the deputy 7 marijuana pipes, 4 joints, a grinder, and a purple glass jar that also held a quantity of marijuana inside. The deputy arrested Ms. Saltzman for the illegal possession of marijuana and lodged her in the Clare County Jail. Based upon that arrest, a police report and request for charges was generated by the deputy and presented to our office. My assistant prosecutor authorized a possession of marijuana charge based upon the admission by Ms. Saltzman that she wasn’t a medical marijuana card holder and the evidence that she did possess marijuana illegally. However, our goal is to ensure that individuals who utilize medical marijuana are doing so legally. As such, Ms. Saltzman was encouraged to obtain her medical marijuana card and if she did so, the case would be dismissed. She did obtain her medical marijuana card and the case was dismissed.”
Court records show that the case was indeed dismissed on August 2; a Clare County judge signed an order to dismiss the case without prejudice. But that’s not where the anger lies – the anger lies in arresting an eighty-year-old in the first place for such a benign offense.
Clare County Sherriff John Wilson may be privy to this, as he released a statement to Fox 17 that emphasized dismissal of the case and illegality of Saltzman’s action but did not address the controversy of whether Saltzman should have been arrested in the first place. His statement conveyed the following, “What the person was doing was illegal; had she renewed her medical marijuana card she would have been fine. I agree with the action the prosecutor’s office and allowing the subject to renew her card, thus dismissing the case. The person was illegally in possession of marijuana.”
To some, his statement may sound a lot like he’s trying to make an example out of Saltzman. But how effective is it to make an example out of a great-grandmother smoking marijuana to help restore her quality of life? Saltzman’s case doesn’t exactly paint her as a criminal mastermind.
Sharing her Story, Hoping for Change
Saltzman is sharing her story in hopes that it will propel change and in hopes that it will help others. “Don’t be ashamed of something that’s going to help you feel better,” she said.
She also hopes it will encourage people to go to the polls this November, adding, “I’m hoping that we all learn a lesson from this and that we make amends and people will get out and vote for it. We’re the ones that have to stand up. We are the people and we just got to fight for our rights.”
Marijuana in Michigan
Despite the above story, Michigan isn’t anti-pot; in fact, the push to legalize recreational weed will go before the popular vote in three months.
The projections show it’s close, with a near 50/50 split. Age of voters matters, with those under forty-five years more likely to vote for recreational weed and those older that sixty-five more likely to vote against. The voters in the ages in between remain conflicted; they’re for medical marijuana, but recreational hasn’t received as warm of a welcome.
A lot can happen in the next few months: people can grow fond of Mary Jane or they can grow against her. But, with the projections so close, it’s fair to assume even if recreational cannabis doesn’t pass this November, it will eventually.