Ferndale marijuana petitioner arrested on drug charges
The Oakland County Sheriff’s Narcotics Enforcement Team arrested Andrew Cissell — who filed a petition putting a proposal to decriminalize marijuana on Ferndale’s Nov. 5 ballot — about two weeks ago on several drug-related charges following an investigation.
During the late part of August, the narcotics team started an investigation to identify a subject who was selling marijuana in the areas of Ferndale, Oak Park and Wayne County. An individual cooperating with the narcotics team wore a wire and allegedly purchased marijuana from Cissell, 25, on two different occasions, with Cissell’s arrest following the second incident.
“During the last controlled purchase from Andrew Cissell, the (Narcotics Enforcement Team) conducted surveillance and then arrested Cissell as he attempted to make a delivery of marijuana to the cooperating individual in the city of Oak Park,” Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe said.
After making the arrest, the narcotics team reportedly seized 120 grams of marijuana from Cissell’s vehicle. The investigation team proceeded to search three residences associated with Cissell, two in Oak Park and one in Ferndale.
At the first Oak Park location, the team found 47 marijuana plants, 838 grams of high-grade marijuana in a safe, digital scales and marijuana paraphernalia, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The team found another 58 marijuana plants at the second Oak Park location, along with more digital scales, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The address in Ferndale that was investigated was the one Cissell used on his application to submit the petition to the city of Ferndale. Investigators talked to the homeowner, Cissell’s father, and no contraband was found, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
“Andrew Cissell’s father was nothing but cooperative and we found nothing to indicate (Andrew Cissell) lived there,” McCabe said. “We found all of his personal property at the two residences in Oak Park, and he was paying for those two homes.”
Cissell reportedly was found to have four medical marijuana caregiver cards on his person at the time of the arrest.
“A person can have up to five caregiver cards, but Cissell was selling marijuana to people that he didn’t have a card for,” McCabe said. “A person can supply marijuana to the people he has caregiver cards for, but they can’t sell to anyone else, and if they are doing that, like Cissell, they are breaking the law.”
On Sept. 11, Cissell was arraigned at the 45-B District Court in Oak Park on five counts of delivering and manufacturing marijuana, each a four-year felony. His bond was set at $50,000. Cissell made a court appearance Sept. 17, and his next court appearance will be Oct. 3.
Lisa Dwyer, Cissell’s lawyer, said she had no comment at this time.
Because the narcotics team investigation showed Cissell had not lived at the Ferndale address on the petition in three years, Ferndale City Clerk Cherilynn Brown filed a complaint with the Ferndale Police Department to start an investigation into possible voter registration fraud by Cissell.
Cissell filed the petition with Brown July 30 after collecting more than the required 364 certified signatures. The proposal would allow anyone over the age of 21 to use or possess no more than 1 ounce of marijuana on private property without being subject to local laws.
City Council discussed the proposal during the Aug. 12 meeting and decided not to take action on it, a decision that automatically sent the proposal to the voters for a decision this November.
“The Michigan Election Code requires an investigation into the facts when credible information is received of possible fraudulent voter registration,” Brown said. “If sufficient evidence is found, we will turn it over to the county to seek prosecution. At this point, however, we have no reason to believe the proposal will be taken off the ballot, as they are being printed and delivered soon.”
Police Chief Timothy Collins said the department has conducted a preliminary investigation, which he said has lent some credibility to the allegations. Collins requested the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office review the Police Department’s investigation and conduct a formal voter registration fraud investigation, if warranted.
Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter said he is not sure how the investigation will end, but he hopes the election will not be tainted by the recent findings.
“The integrity of our elections cannot be compromised, and I’m concerned about the possibility of election fraud on the voters of Ferndale,” he said. “We’ll work with the appropriate agencies to help us determine how to proceed, because, fortunately, we haven’t dealt with this sort of issue before.”
Cissell, who said he wanted to run for state representative next year, was filing the petition after being approached by the Coalition for a Safer Michigan. Tim Beck, chairman of the coalition, said he is confident the proposal will not only appear on the ballot, but also pass by a wide margin.
“Andrew was an enthusiastic young man, but he was not terribly sophisticated and he appears to have made some mistakes. But the fact of the matter is it is not going to affect the ballot,” Beck said. “We did not know he registered to vote in Ferndale, and if we did, we would not have advised him to do that, and that is where he screwed up, if the reports are true.
“Ferndale is a very sophisticated community when it comes to these kinds of issues, and it is not going to become a Mecca for drugs or a slum. But, it will send a message to the state and put some heavy pressure on the members of the Legislature.”