3 Officers Fired, 1 Dead in Pot-Butter Scandal

3 Officers Fired, 1 Dead, In Pot-Butter Scandal

Since March of this year, a marijuana butter scandal has been unfolding in the state of Michigan. This debacle involves four corrections officers, a couple of spouses, and a whole lot of misery for those involved.

The incident started with a tip from the U.S. Postal Service that marijuana was en route to an unspecified address. Soon after, authorities raided the homes of both the sender and the party who would be receiving the vacuum-sealed marijuana butter. Ultimately, a small grow operation was discovered at one home, while several pounds of refined marijuana butter were found at the other residence. This turn of events back in March has since led to three longtime Kent Count corrections officers being summarily fired, and another seems to have taken his own life.

Brian Tennant, Todd VanDoorne, and Michael Frederick, all veteran corrections officers, along with Timothy Bernhardt, who was a sergeant and a 22-year veteran with the Kent County Sheriff's Department, were all ensnared in the pot butter investigation. Bernhardt was the first officer arrested after the Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team raided the home of Alyssa and Timothy Scherzer and obtained evidence that marijuana-infused butter had been provided to the corrections employees. After interviewing Bernhardt, police arrested Tennant, VanDoorne, and Fredrick. All officers were charged with varied marijuana crimes, depending on their participation in the supply chain.

Tennant and Bernhardt have already accepted plea deals in exchange for testifying against the other two officers. In a sad quasi-end to this case, Bernhardt was found dead at his home on Nov. 16. Suicide was hinted at, but the Kent County Sherriff’s Office had no comment.

Some might be glad to see these officers of the law caught up in their own dragnet. I feel differently.

I agree with those who call this a "witch hunt" over a "hyper-technicality" in the law. What this is really about is a confusing, vague, gray area within the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, that states: although marijuana can be legally used by patients with the proper recommendation, those using edibles are not protected from prosecution. Three of the officers had valid state MMJ cards. However, because of their jobs, the gray area in the law, the fact that they were using butter as a medium for cannabis, and an overzealous judge who wanted to make examples of them, all those involved in this non-violent infraction have since had their lives ruined. Each of the remaining officers is looking at a four-year sentence plus fines... Over pot butter?