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  • The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues

    Ypsilanti police are still searching for the person dubbed the “mystery pooper.” Someone has been, as the Associated Press politely puts it today, “soiling slides at an Ypislanti playground over the last six months.” So, of course, someone purchased an electronic billboard along I-94 near Huron St. at exit 183 that delivers multiple calls for action: For instance,”Help us flush the pooper.” The company that purchased the billboard, Adams Outdoor Advertising, knows how to reach the world in the 21st Century, branding each billboard with a hashtag for the public utilize in its efforts: #ypsipooper. WJBK-TV says the billboard also toggles through other rich lines, such as: “Do your civic doody, report the pooper #YPSIPOOPER” “Help us catch the poopetrator #YPSIPOOPER.” You can have the runs, but you can’t hide. They’re still looking for you, Mystery Pooper.

    The post The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co.

    It’s a really, very cool idea. Paxahau, the good people behind the Movement Electronic Music Festival, are hosting a series of warm-up events, or previews, to the big festival which takes place Memorial Day weekend. On Thursday evening, Movement moved into the Urban Coffee Bean on Grand River in Detroit. While Dj AvA and Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp ably worked the decks, the regular coffee shop goings on continued behind them. It made for an interesting and amusing webcast experience – one guy was taking a nap on camera, while others supped coffee and tappd their feet. It should come as no surprise – the Urban Coffee Co. people have always been big supporters of electronic music. The place includes a DJ stand, and co-owner Josh Greenwood encourages customers to bring their own vinyl and spin on the open turntables. Not on Thursday night though. This being a coffee shop, and it not being particularly late at night, the music remained pretty chill throughout. DJ AvA (real name Heather McGuigan) includes Beth Orton, Madonna, the B-52’s, Daftpunk and David Byrne among her list of influences, so you know that she’s capable of both whipping up a storm and also […]

    The post City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co. appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Higher Ground

Law and disorder

Legal battles over drug testing, grow operations and ordinances continue

Even though it's not an election year, when it comes to medical marijuana, you have to consider Michigan a battleground state. The battles over who, where, when and how medical marijuana can be used and distributed are being fought in the courts, and although some of them may be settled this year, it will probably take another couple of years before all of the present cases are finally put to rest.

One of the key cases is the American Civil Liberties Union suit against Wal-Mart for firing Joseph Casias. Casias, of Battle Creek, is a cancer patient who uses medical marijuana at his oncologist's recommendation. After injuring his knee at work he took a required drug test, which found he had been using marijuana — legally under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

"There are now two big motions before federal Judge Robert Jonker that were argued back in November," says ACLU of Michigan staff attorney Dan Korobkin. "One is a motion to remand the case to the state court. The second motion, Wal-Mart filed to dismiss the suit entirely. ... It was a fairly lengthy hearing and we expect a ruling any day now. He [Judge Jonker] has to decide the first motion, whether the case is heard in state court or federal court. If it stays in federal court, then he'll rule on the dismissal. This is the first big case in Michigan about the rights of medical marijuana patients who also have jobs. This is a case about whether a medical marijuana patient has to choose between making a living and supporting a family or treating a medical condition and pain based on the advice of a doctor. When the law was enacted, citizens said you shouldn't have to make that choice."

Once those motions are ruled on, and assuming there are no appeals, then the actual case will be argued — or be done with if Wal-Mart gets its way. Casias was named Associate of the Year in 2008 at the Battle Creek Wal-Mart and had an exemplary employment record.

"Following all rules of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act protects you from being fired by Wal-Mart or any other employer," says Korobkin. "We don't argue that you can use marijuana and show up at work under the influence. He was fired for just being a medical marijuana patient."

In an unrelated case, the ACLU has sued Livonia, Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham on behalf of registered medical marijuana patients Linda Lott and her husband Bob, who live in Birmingham. Linda has multiple sclerosis and Bob, her caregiver, has glaucoma. He would like to grow marijuana in a Livonia warehouse he owns, and she would like to medicate at a private social club she belongs to in Bloomfield Hills. In the past year, each of those cities passed a law completely banning medical marijuana in defiance of state law.

"How can a city completely ban medical marijuana?" asks Korobkin.

They've done it, but now we'll eventually find out if they've done it legally under Michigan law.

While medical marijuana is legal under state law, it isn't under federal law. That issue is also playing out in the case of five Okemos growing facilities that were raided by the Drug Enforcement Agency early in December, where investigators allegedly found more than 400 plants. The federal government has a policy of not raiding medical marijuana facilities that are in full compliance with state law, so maybe they believe these growers were doing something wrong. So far, aside from breaking up grow operations and depriving patients of their medication, it has come down to a tussle between the DEA and Michigan's Department of Community Health, which administers the medical marijuana patient and caregiver documentation.

The DEA wants the state to turn over personal records of individuals it is investigating. However, there are potential civil and criminal penalties for violating confidentiality promised in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. Whoever actually hands the records over to the feds could be liable. As it stands now, Community Health officials are seeking immunity from prosecution if they turn over the records. The Michigan Association of Compassion Clubs, a medical marijuana support organization, has filed an injunction opposing the DEA's records.

"That's a damn interesting case," says attorney Matt Abel of Detroit's Cannabis Counsel law office. "There are a lot of factors; one is federal supremacy, which is well established. However, medical marijuana patients and caregivers have privacy rights guaranteed to them under state law. Whoever gives documents to the feds is violating state law. Can the federal government give immunity for violating state law? If the court orders that records be turned over, it will have a chilling effect on medical marijuana patients."

Abel is not personally involved in the case but, as a medical marijuana activist, he keeps an eye on legal developments. Another case he's watching is the recent raid on the complex housing Big Daddy's Compassion Club and Big Daddy's Hydro in Oak Park. Oakland County sheriff's deputies raided the complex owned by Rick "Big Daddy" Ferris on Jan. 12. They took money, marijuana and equipment, but oddly, no one has yet been charged with anything. Police said that some drug dealers busted elsewhere in Oakland County claimed they got all their pot from Big Daddy's — although there was no discussion on whether the alleged dealers acquired the marijuana from Big Daddy's legally or not.

What the raid did do was show once again that Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper and Sheriff Mike Bouchard want to keep their boot heels on the neck of medical marijuana in their county. In August, sheriff's deputies busted two alleged marijuana dispensaries in Oakland County.

"Oakland is the most difficult county to deal with, the most unreasonable," says Abel. "They have the largest budget, the largest staff, a conservative bench, and a whack-job prosecutor. ... In the Big Daddy's case they didn't charge anybody right away. It was a smash and grab, take your stuff and then you have to prove that they don't have the right to it. It's a bad incentive for the police. They don't take things they believe were purchased with drug proceeds. They take things they can get money for at auction."

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