Re-elected Oakland County Sheriff known for being tough on pot says he'll follow the law now that it's legal 

  • Michael Bouchard campaign
While Oakland County continued to see a shift blue after Tuesday's election, one top office remains occupied by a longstanding Republican.

County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, who has held the position for two decades, was re-elected for a sixth term, winning 54% of the vote.

Law enforcement under Bouchard has been known for cracking down on marijuana, including a raid on Oakland County's first dispensary, where officers arrested more than two dozen people about a decade ago.

In 2016, Bouchard's opponent, former Ferndale mayor Craig Covey, accused Bouchard of spending too much taxpayer money on cracking down on pot.

"His position on this subject is bordering on hysterical," Covey previously told Metro Times. "[Bouchard] is stuck in the 1970s, following the Nixon model on drug policy. He's using our resources to go after marijuana issues rather than to go after heroin."

In 2014 and 2015, cannabis accounted for almost 30 percent of the Narcotics Enforcement Team's drug arrests, and that number has been closer to 50 percent in some years since the passage of the medical marijuana law in 2008.

With recreational marijuana legalized by Michigan in 2018, it seemed likely that voters might choose a county sheriff whose attitudes on weed have changed with the times. Bouchard's 2020 opponent, Vincent Gregory, a retired Wayne County sheriff's detective and former state senator, ran on more liberal views on weed. A cannabis industry scorecard gave Gregory an "A" for pledging to minimize racial disparities in cannabis-related law enforcement and being supportive of state-licensed cannabis businesses. Bouchard apparently didn't even bother to respond to the survey.

But it's not like Bouchard is turning over a new leaf. Bouchard maintains that he isn't anti-pot — he's just pro-law. And the law around marijuana in Michigan was murky for years.

"We enforce the law," he tells Metro Times.

Despite the fact that Michigan legalized medical marijuana in 2008, the state didn't technically allow for medical marijuana dispensaries. It wasn't until 2016 that the state finally set up a licensing system for them with the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act.

"Dispensaries were not legal," he says. "They were operating in different parts of the state that did not make them legal. We had opinions from the state under then-Governor Granholm, from the (County) Prosecutor, and from the Attorney General that all said dispensaries were not legal."

But now that the matter has been settled, Bouchard says the county has not pursued any cases involving marijuana.

"We follow the law to the letter," he says. "So I don't anticipate crackdowns on marijuana, unless the law specifically speaks to that."

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