HOUGHTON - Northern Specialty Health, a medical marijuana dispensary in Houghton's Huron Center will close its doors following combined federal/regional raids on the business and the Hancock home of its owner, Nathan Joyal, on Dec. 12.
Public Information Officer Donald Dawkins of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said state and federal prosecutors are still considering evidence before deciding what charges to file, but firearms charges against Joyal are likely with marijuana charges possible.
"We were going in looking at firearms issues, but are aware of possible medical marijuana violations as well," Dawkins said.
Dan Roblee/Daily Mining Gazette
Nathan Joyal, owner of Northern Specialty Health stands in his store Wednesday. Joyal is closing the business following a raid last week by federal and regional law enforcement authorities.
He said that the investigation and raids were a joint effort of the ATF and the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team.
Joyal said he plans to close the business by the end of the year after trying to sell his remaining stock of marijuana smoking and growing supplies. He said his money, the marijuana in his home and in his store have been seized. Beyond that, the legal situation would likely prevent him from growing or selling marijuana legally again.
However, Joyal said he's in discussions with someone interested in buying the business and re-opening it as a dispensary. He said his legal issues should have no affect on the business' ability to operate under different ownership.
"The sanctions imposed were against me personally," he said.
Dawkins said the investigation of Joyal was based on tips and other information, and had been ongoing since "earlier this year." Investigators and attorneys are still building their case, he added, but would likely file charges within a few days.
The case is unlikely to have broader fallout. Dawkins said investigators aren't seeking any other warrants or targeting any more suspects at this time.
The ATF is not specifically targeting medical marijuana dealers, he said, though they might bring federal marijuana charges against someone if evidence arises while investigating something else. While federal law does not recognize the legality of state legislated legal medical marijuana, "medical marijuana dealers, when they're conducting business within the law, we don't have any problem with them," Dawkins said.
Joyal said police arrived at his home with a warrant at about 5:45 p.m. Dec. 12, and entered the business about 45 minutes later. He said he thought he saw about 25 different police officers involved in the operation, and believes there were actually many more. He said he spent about seven hours in handcuffs before being released.
Authorities haven't yet released an account of the raid.
"I don't believe I did anything wrong," Joyal said. "I think there's a dispute about exactly what the rules are."
Prospective medical marijuana customer Jim Ross was angry when he walked into Northern Specialty Health Monday and heard that he'd been denied what he considered the safest and least destructive painkiller normally available for his back pain and mobility issues.
"I can get a prescription for Oxycontin, even if it kills me," he said. "This is a plant that grows in the garden."
A counter worker referred him to the only other dispensary in the region, Noggins, in Calumet.
Noggins owner Ry Kochsiek said that his shop was still in business, that he made it a point to avoid guns entirely and kept a close eye on any legal technicalities that could put him afoul of the law.