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Former lawmaker Schmidt released on pot charges

Police found marijuana plants and products during Wednesday search of his home

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) – Former state representative Roy Schmidt was arraigned Friday on drug-related charges for processed marijuana seized this week at his Northwest Side home and dozens of plants found growing at a nearby home he rented from a family member.

He's charged with two counts of delivery/manufacture of marijuana, a four-year felony. It is the most common charge filed against defendants in possession of processed marijuana or plants in violation of Michigan's Medical Marijuana Law.

Schmidt was released from the Kent County Jail Friday afternoon on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond. He'll be back in court June 25 for a probable cause hearing.

During Friday's video arraignment, Grand Rapids District Court Judge Donald Passenger weighed in on the felony charges.

"At worst this is a medical grow operation," Passenger said. "I've known Mr. Schmidt for many years and consider him a professional colleague."

Members of the Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team on Wednesday afternoon went to Schmidt's home on 7th Street east of Covell Avenue NW and a second home owned by a relative on Myrtle Street near Jennette Avenue NW.

Schmidt, 61, was in control of marijuana operations at both homes, said Lt. Al Roetman, head of the sheriff department's KANET unit.

In a probable cause hearing for the felony warrant on Thursday, KANET Deputy John Tuinhoff, who's handled scores of marijuana cases, said Schmidt identified himself as a medical marijuana patient and caregiver.

The ex-city commissioner and West Side icon admitted to selling to at least 20 people who are not his registered patients nor did they possess a Michigan Medical Marijuana card, Tuinhoff testified.

Police found approximately three pounds of marijuana, Tuinhoff said, adding that Schmidt said marijuana was distributed from his 7th Street home.

During a search of a home on Myrtle Street NW that Schmidt rents from a family member, investigators found 71 marijuana plants, Tuinhoff said.

Under Michigan law, a registered caregiver can grow up to 12 plants for a maximum of five patients. Caregivers can also grow for themselves if they have a Medical Marijuana patient card, That means the most plants any one person can legally grow is 72

Schmidt was booked into the Kent County Jail Thursday afternoon and held overnight ahead of his arraignment on Friday.

He's hired Grand Rapids attorney Matthew D. Herman, an advocate for medical marijuana who recently opened a marijuana growing facility in an old warehouse on the city's West Side for licensed caregivers.

Calling it a "Fort Knox for pot,'' Herman says it's a first of its kind facility that lets caregivers cultivate medical marijuana at a secure, locked facility equipped with alarms and video surveillance.

Herman has represented numerous clients charged with violations of the voter-approved Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.

Wednesday's raids are part of an ongoing strategy by KANET to enforce marijuana laws. Police this year have used search warrants to enter nearly two dozen homes in Grand Rapids for suspected marijuana violations. Although grow operations are not uncommon, police primarily are finding processed marijuana, a review of search warrant documents show.

Three dozen people have been prosecuted in Kent County this year on combined charges of delivery/manufacture of marijuana and maintaining a drug house. Of the cases already resolved, defendants are primarily being sentenced to probation and fines.

Schmidt has been a high-profile politician for decades, first as a Grand Rapids city commissioner and later as a state representative for his beloved West Side.

Schmidt lost his 2012 bid for re-election to the state House after switching his political affiliation from the Democratic to the Republican party just before a primary filing deadline and offering money to someone with no political experience to run against him in the general election.

Investigators found no criminal wrongdoing in that incident.