Pot-for-cancer caregiver faces 8 years

A card-carrying medical marijuana caregiver who was growing marijuana in his backyard to treat his wife’s stage-3 breast cancer will be sentenced Thursday for manufacturing marijuana. Gary Alan Katz, 59, pleaded guilty in June to manufacturing marijuana, a charge that resulted after officers with the Livingston and Washtenaw Narcotics Enforcement Team raided his home Aug. 10. Both the defendant and his wife, Jeanne Katz, who was not charged in the case, declined to comment. Attempts to reach Gary Katz’s attorney were unsuccessful.

“The fact you’re doing a good thing on the side doesn’t justify” illegal behavior, Prosecutor David Morse said when asked why Gary Katz was charged. “We cut the guy some slack. There were guns recovered,” Morse said. “He could have been charged as a felon in possession of a firearm. … I recognize he may have been doing some good things there, but there are other ways to help.” Morse said Jeanne Katz was not charged because she had no liability in the found marijuana.

Gary Katz’s prior criminal history includes a conviction for delivery/manufacturing of marijuana. He faces up to eight years in prison when sentenced Thursday on the manufacturing charge. A conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm would have meant an automatic two-year sentence that runs consecutive to any other conviction. Although neither Gary Katz nor his wife would comment for this story, an April blog posting on the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association’s Web site appears to detail their experience.

That blog entry, which says it is “my account from the time I was awoken by my husband with an officer standing at my bedroom door,” indicates LAWNET officers raided the couple’s home at around 11 a.m. Aug. 10. The writer indicates that she and her husband, who are both medical marijuana users and caregivers, decided to store their marijuana in a “secured yard with a 6-foot fence, locked up.” However, the enclosure did not have a roof, which the writer compared to the prison in Jackson.

“Jackson prison’s yard is fenced, and the prisoners go outside, and that outside yard is considered a part of the secured, locked and enclosed facility,” the writer noted. The writer indicates that the officers said they received a tip about marijuana growing outside the couple’s home and “that it was illegal to grow outside without a top.” However, the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act does not specifically say that, the writer argues.

Morse was not familiar with the details of the raid, but said Gary Katz could not grow marijuana for medical reasons “in the manner he was doing it.” He said the defense apparently agreed because the defendant pleaded guilty to the charge. “Everyone talks about how ambiguous the law is, but in our cases, the plain reading of the statute will tell you it’s illegal,” Morse said.

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