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Officer Convicted In Marijuana Butter Case Takes His Own Life


finished marijuana butterOne of the corrections officers snared in a case involving the medicinal use of marijuana-infused butter has committed suicide.

On October 20, Officer Timmothy Bernhardt plead guilty  to charges that he and other Kent County Jail officers received and distributed the butter for their own medicinal use. He and another officer took plea deals and were due to be sentenced in early December. Two other officers refused plea deals and are awaiting trial.

Noted medical marijuana advocate and radio personality Steve Greene, confirmed the identity of the deceased with county officials earlier today.

The investigation began when a package containing the butter was discovered by postal employees and reported to police. “After interviewing Bernhardt, police arrested Brian Tennant, Todd VanDoorne and Michael Frederick.,” per the MLive news report.

Concentrated forms of cannabis, including the ointments and foods created from them, were considered legal for medicinal use until a radical 2013 Court of Appeals opinion in the Carruthers case changed the accepted definition of usable marijuana to include only those items containing bits of the original plant material. Marijuana butter, which is filtered to remove the grit and distasteful portions, does not meet this criteria.

All of the persons alleged to have used the marijuana-infused foodstuffs created from the green butter were registered medical marijuana patients under Michigan’s medical marijuana program (MMP), as was the caregiver who produced the butter and provided it to the officers.


Officer Bernhardt’s death comes at a time when the Michigan Senate is modifying a bill to correct the appellate court’s disruptive ruling in Carruthers. HB 5104 was filed by Rep. Eileen Kowall on October 30 2013 and was passed through Committee and full House votes by December 12, after only 6 weeks of consideration. In a rare display of unity and bipartisanship, the bill passed the Michigan House by a vote of 100-9.

The bill’s immediacy was emphasized by moving testimony from parents of pediatric cannabis patients, whose MMP-endorsed treatment regimes were interrupted by the Court’s unique interpretation. Some of the most moving testimony came from Jim and Erin Powers, whose son Ryan is one of approximately 50 children approved for medical use of marijuana in Michigan.

“The lion’s share of the patients using medibles and extracts are seriously ill and the continued harassment and prosecution of these people is sickening,” Powers said.

The Senate received the bill on January 8 and managed to pass it out of the Government Operations Committee on August 13, more than seven months later. A victim of election-year politics, the bill and it’s controversial partner HB 4271 (The Provisioning Centers Act) were made to wait for their full Senate debate until after the November general election.

Lobbying group the National Patients Rights Association is in negotiations with Governor Snyder’s office and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville to secure legislative approval for the pair of bills, and a signature on each from the governor.


“Every day that goes by puts us closer to restarting this process all over again in 2015,” Greene observed.

The bills are expected to hit Snyder’s desk before the new year, but that won’t help the family of Officer Bernhardt. An appeal of the Court decision in Caruthers was filed with the Michigan Supreme Court early in 2014 but was refused on the grounds that a legislative solution seemed imminent. Apparently the state’s highest court didn’t think it would take this long for the Senate to pass HB 5104.

Advocates didn’t think it would take this long, either. Jim Powers, co-founder of Michigan Parents for Compassion, says he understands the stress this new insanity in the law has caused- especially to victims of this potentially temporary illegality, like Officer Timmothy Bernhardt.

“As the father of a child who depends on extracts to keep his illness in check, I continually wonder, is today the day they are coming?” Powers said. “Further stalling of legislation like House Bill 5104 will eventually push us to move out of state, like so many other Michigan families have already done, in order to help guarantee the safety of our family.”

“Every day that the bill is delayed, more patients become snared up in the legal system for an act that was legal two years ago- and will be likely legal again in a few month’s time,” opined Jamie Lowell, chair of the Michigan chapter of Americans for Safe Access.

Source: TheCompassionChronicles.Com


About Author

"Rick Thompson was the Editor in Chief for the entire 2-year run of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, was the spokesman for the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers and is the current Editor and Lead Blogger for The Compassion Chronicles. Rick has addressed committees in both the House and Senate, has authored over 200 articles on marijuana and is a professional photographer." Rick Thompson Is An Author At The Compassion Chronicles and focuses on all things Michigan.


  1. LOL.
    Did you actually read the comment?

    I suppose it would have been reasonable for me to commit suicide when I got my felony.

    This article is about mental illness and is designed to be anti-prohibition propaganda.

    I am actually a anti-prohibitionist, but like I said, the guy needs to accept responsibility for his actions. I’m not going to be sympathetic to this unless it is 100% framed as a mentally ill person getting caught up in bad rules instead of bad rules causing a seemingly “healthy mind” to commit suicide.

  2. And, because YOU didn’t commit suicide, he shouldn’t have committed suicide? You’re right. He’s wrong. Simplistic but coming from you, understandable. Keep diggin’….

  3. Someone should say it: tu es un idiota. No one is being reasonable when contemplating suicide. Read a book and learn something. Your comments are naive, immature, and profoundly disturbing.

  4. I gasped. This is tragic. My condolences to Officer Bernhardt’s family. His despair must have been palpable. I feel so sad that he felt a need to take such drastic measures. It’s propelled me further into the politics. The shame, guilt and remorse he must have felt because of his work….there’s needs to be help for and with the police in this transition from illegal to legal. No one has to die, take their own life: there is no shame, no remorse, no guilt needed when it comes to medical cannabis.
    Thanks for letting us know. I am most appreciative.

  5. A second point is that you said that prohibition did not cause his suicide. In fact, it did. If his stash hadn’t been illegal, he wouldn’t have been arrested; if he hadn’t been arrested–and, among others things, had his career as a cop likely terminated–he wouldn’t have committed suicide. Yes, I am aware that there were probably other issues at play when he decided “not to be.”

  6. I personally have no objection to people growing whatever plant they want and it’s better to grow it yourself than buy it off the black market.

    The real point here, though, is the nature of the regulation as I understand it: It’s legal for medical use if it hasn’t been filtered thoroughly and illegal if filtered. That’s reefer madness absurdity and, to me, simply an effort to maintain prohibition in some form until the cows come home.

  7. I am broke. I manage to not get most penalties that *could* be imposed on me. I don’t even make medical claims even though I actually could if I wanted to- I don’t believe in drugs being OK for medical and not OK for anything else. Anyone can lie about *needing* *medicine*

  8. Or they could simply accept the consequences of their actions and use their cases to highlight the inappropriate nature of the laws moving forward.

    Why don’t they join LEAP? That would be a start

  9. So you have no problems with people growing and refining Papaver somniferum and Erythroxylum coca?

    They’re just plants and its “wrong” to keep people from growing and processing unlimited amounts of plants for recreational or medical purposes.

    They guy committed suicide. Prohibition did not cause that. I am a felon.. Never did suicide ever come into consideration even with 2 years of moderate to severe depression.

  10. He could have accepted the consequences for his actions like a reasonable adult.

    It doesn’t matter if the law is wrong. He knew that when he started working in the industry, or at least he should have.

  11. Hypocrite. The guy should have never been in the industry he was in.

    Plus, he shouldn’t take risks he can’t accept the consequences for.

  12. Obviously Richardville is an anti-cannabis obstructionist. The power of committee chairs should definitely be curtailed. This is a big problem for our government, state and federal. When one person decides what gets voted on or not, we have a completely dysfunctional mess. What the hell good is it to have a senate and a house when one person in either chamber controls it. Unfortunately, the populace is so stupid and ignorant that the mess will continue. We be fxxxxx.

  13. The lawyer in carruthers did bring this up. one of the top mmj lawyers in the state, and he won the other case against Carruthers (two seperate cases). The lawyer did appeal when the CoA issued its wrong ruling. Theres a few things at play here.

    1. Carruthers appeal was based on a section 4 dismiss motion being rejected. The supreme court said Carruthers should do a sec8 first , before appealing. Thats why the MSC denied the appeal.

    2. The court of appeals is crazy and has been reversed by the mich supreme court almost a dozen times. Currently 3 cases heading for oral arguments in the supreme court. A cases few are being held in abeyance (including Carruthers) until these 3 are heard.

    3. The guy who took his own life shouldnt have plead guilty, and could have fought with his sec8 protections. Just like the other officers are doing right now. Is this victim blaming? No. Standing up for your rights is important.

    4. Bill Forsythe is the Kent county prosecutor and he is just as crazy as the court of appeals. He is on a crusade against marijuana much like mich AG Bill Schuette and Oakland co prosecutor Jessica Cooper.

    5. The MSC head justice has stated publically, in a newspaper that “I’m so sick of medical marijuana cases,”. whatever that could mean for future cases is up to your imagination.

    Both 4271 and 5104 passed the senate with 90% yes votes. Whats the hold up Randy Richardville?

  14. I recently made some marijuana butter using finely ground leaves. I didn’t strain it, just leaving the leaves intact. Then I made some brownies with the butter and they tasted fine and gave me a good, long lasting buzz (about 4 hours once it kicked in). There was a slightly grainy texture, but not unpleasantly so. Would it be possible, in Michigan, to use my method to avoid the barbaric restriction that led to the tragic and unnecessary death?

  15. That is a good point. Also, the ability to demonstrate what it is to a jury, and explain how a doctor recommended canbabis as a possible medical benefit, that it was for the patient’s medical benefit and that it was a reasonable amount, should have been a viable option. If the jury agrees that the butter is cannabis- in spite of Carruthers- and that the conditions of the affirmative defense have been met. The case(s) should be dismissed.

    Of course there is the way things should be and the way things are-

    The system is so skewed and the expense so great to really challenge the many issues preventing real justice from taking place, that these pleas are very common. The lawyers typically look to get the best deal for the client instead of taking on the machine.

  16. In this day and age, stupid is almost exclusively determined by laziness and apathy. With the internet, there are answers to almost any question we might consider, and access is easy and nearly ubiquitous. There simply is no justifiable excuse to be ignorant, anymore.

    However, there are people out there who are content not knowing, not looking, and/or making assumptions, instead. People assume things not because they’re true or even very likely, but because they’re desirable, often simply reinforcing pre-existing misconceptions and prejudices. Sadly, if reinforcing idiotic misconceptions and prejudices is all a person wants, the internet provides *that* as well, as demonstrated by Kevin Sabet’s online presence.

  17. 2013 Court of Appeals opinion in the Carruthers case changed the accepted definition of usable marijuana to include only those items containing bits of the original plant material. Marijuana butter, which is filtered to remove the grit and distasteful portions, does not meet this criteria. Bullshit get out the Electron microscope and you will find “Bits” of the plant. Dumb ass lawyers did not bring this up?

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