MSP defends marijuana crime lab reporting after FOX 17 investigation

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Big questions are still looming over the controversial Michigan State Police Forensic Science Division marijuana reporting policy change: it's accused of ambiguous crime lab reporting leading to misdemeanor pot charges trumped for synthetic-THC felonies.

Tuesday MSP-FSD officials responded to FOX 17’s investigation: officials stated they stand by their policy change, but they failed to address some of our biggest questions.

Last month, FOX 17 was the first to show you emails accusing the crime labs of falsely reporting marijuana extracts, leading to trumped up felony charges of synthetic pot possession. Tuesday, state police officials released a seven-paragraph statement which explains their 2013 policy change to write “origin unknown” on lab reports where they said they cannot determine if samples are marijuana or man-made THC (mainly in the case where pot plant material is not present).

However, their statement does not address the concerns FOX 17 revealed in uncovered emails from MSP-FSD’s own crime lab employees who wrote to their peers that they do have the science to prove where pot extracts, like edibles and hash, come from.

Here is the MSP statement in full released to FOX 17 on Nov. 17:

“In 2013, the Michigan State Police Forensic Science Division (MSP-FSD) changed its policy regarding how marihuana and THC are reported in an effort to standardize reporting practices among our laboratories and to ensure laboratory reports only include findings that can be proved scientifically. 

With the influx of synthetic drugs into our laboratory system it became necessary to ensure reporting standards were in place across all labs. As is common practice in this division, involved laboratory managers were given the opportunity to discuss the proposed changes and provide their insight before a final decision was made by laboratory command. 

After this discussion period, the decision was made to begin using the phrase "origin unknown" for samples in which it is not possible to determine if THC originates from a plant (marihuana) or synthetic means. It should be pointed out that "origin unknown" does not mean the sample is synthetic THC; it only means the lab did not determine the origin and the source of the THC should not be assumed from the lab results. 

For example, if a sample is submitted to the lab that is clearly from a plant-based source, the results will indicate the sample is marihuana. If it is not clear that the submitted sample is from a plant-based source because it is an extract, residue or another compound with no visible plant matter, then the report will indicate whether or not THC — the illegal component of the sample — is present, but the source of the THC will not be identified ("origin unknown") because the source cannot be scientifically established. 

This reporting procedure was further clarified in July 2015 with the amended phrase of "The origin of delta-1-tetrahydrocannabinol may be from a plant (marihuana) or a synthetic source." 

The MSP-FSD takes full responsibility for this policy change and stands behind its decision, as being in the best interest of science. The allegation that politics or other influence played a role in this policy change is wholly untrue. 

As is the circumstance in all criminal cases, the ultimate charging decision rests with the prosecuting authority that makes their decision based upon all the relevant evidence in a case, of which the laboratory report is but one factor.”

Note that in the first paragraph, state police officials write that their 2013 marijuana and THC reporting change was made in an effort to “standardize reporting practices among our laboratories and to ensure laboratory reports only include findings that can be proved scientifically.”

Officials explain that the crime lab was testing an influx of synthetic drugs. Then, as FOX 17 has been reporting, after a discussion, MSP officials changed policy to write “origin unknown” on lab reports for samples officials said are impossible for their lab employees to determine where the THC originates.

Yet again, writing “origin unknown” on lab reports is a resonating point of contention, attorney Michael Komorn, medical marijuana activists, and even crime lab scientists themselves disagree. This is even evidenced within months of uncovered email chains between MSP-FSD employees where crime lab scientists and directors wrote they can prove where marijuana extracts come from based on science and tests available in the crime labs.

But MSP’s argument appears to remain that because there is no pot plant visible in samples like hash and edibles, their labs cannot determine if the THC is natural or man-made: again, the difference between a misdemeanor and felony.

Ultimately MSP officials wrote, “MSP-FSD takes full responsibility for this policy change and stands behind its decision, as being in the best interest of science.”

As of Tuesday, MSP officials decline on-camera interviews with FOX 17, including an interview with MSP-FSD Director, Captain Greg Michaud.

Although it is up to the prosecutor to file charges, this crime lab reporting change has severely affected people’s lives, including the father in Spring Lake Max Lorincz who is charged with felony possession of synthetic-THC for having butane hash oil.

Lorincz has lost custody of his son since September 2014 as a result, and he is due back in Ottawa County Court Friday. Lorincz and his family have started a GoFundMe page to raise money to continue fighting their case and comply with court’s orders: including money for transportation to drive to drug tests and counseling all because he is a medical marijuana card-carrying patient.

Stay with FOX 17 for the latest on this investigation.

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  • Fun facts

    Police unions defend shootings of unarmed citizens.. Did we not think they wouldn’t defend this practice of holding a felony conviction over someone’s head ?

  • Ambrose Bierce

    Origin unknown? Just what sort of equipment do the lab rats rely on? The only legal synthetic is Marinol (Schedule 3). It is the synthetic analogue of the primary intoxicant in Cannabis (Delta Nine THC). As I understand it this legal synthetic can be differentiated from the plant (or plant derived material) by testing for THCV, which the plant/derived material will contain – whereas the legal synthetic is 100% puro D9THC.
    The default position is to consider the sample plant/plant derived if THCV is detectable, If not, then the origin is unknown and prosecution for such should be “unknown”.
    The law dogs like the word synthetic, probably started this to ride the “Spice” (synthetic crapshoots) wave – conflate an “origin unknown” into felonies (oh, gee, synthetic!).
    CDC can’t find a single fatatlity to add to the Cannabis use rolls – the count remains at ZERO. Just how many taxpayer dollars continue to foist this prohibitionist con into the lives of the suffering?
    Land of the free?

    • Ian

      I’ve been burglarized and the cops did nothing besides the initial report. I’ve been assaulted and the cops talked me out of pressing charges (I was young and stupid). The police have never helped me when I was a crime victim, but will pull you over and bust you for a little roach. I think they are just grasping at the last shreds of prohibition. Fucking lazy cops just want to bust non violent drug offenders and not put effort into catching the violent thieves, rapists and murderers.

  • Dave K Az

    American cops now steal more property through asset forfeiture than all US burglars combined. These thefts occur “under the color of the law” and require an individual to hire an attorney and go to court to have their property returned. Property can be taken without other charges being filed:

    “In 2008, law enforcement took over $1.5 billion from the American public. While this number seems incredibly large, just a few years later, in 2014, that number tripled to nearly $4.5 billion.

    When we examine these numbers, and their nearly exponential growth curve, it appears that police in America are getting really good at separating the citizen from their property — not just really good, criminally good.

    To put this number into perspective, according to the FBI, victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $3.9 billion in property losses in 2014.”

  • Dave K Az

    Millions of Americans, young and old, depend on medical marijuana particularly when pharmaceutical drugs have failed them. NIDA, the US Dept of Health, and the US National Cancer Institute now ALL agree that this plant “KILLS” cancer (as such it is clearly a medicine, for those of you in the DEA). Take a minute and sign the petition to force the director of the DEA (Chuck Rosenburg) to step down for his outrageous statements declaring that medical marijuana is a joke. If Chuck Rosenburg cannot play with the rest of the federal government’s own team he clearly should resign!

  • Common Cents

    There is no such thing as “man-made THC.” If someone could make actual THC they would be a billionaire. There are man made substances that simulate THC, to put it simply, these molecules are shaped like a key just like THC and they unlock the same receptors. These substances have names like JWH-018…not THC. The MSP CLEARLY know that they’re making a mockery of the law because they don’t agree with cannabis being used as medicine. I hope they get what they deserve.

  • Jay

    I have personally been burglarized by the MSP this year NO CHARGES almost broke my wife’s arm and threatened to kill my animals they left no report for anything they took like electronics my video surveillance cash and anything else they felt like taking

  • Cheryl

    Thank you Dana Chicklas for exposing the immorality of this situation. The MMM Act was morally-based and enacted Initiate Law. But the existing Courts do not function under the law of right and wrong. They function under the combative rules of commerce (per legal contracts people enter into), which is why attorneys on both sides must make all the moves. The MSP and Prosecutors are trying to support the immoral, and illegal, Public Policy of creating revenue from medical marihuana use without fact-based evidence upon which they can rely.

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