WEDNESDAY, Dec. 11 — A planned appointment to the Ingham Community Health Centers’ board of directors is back on track after officials found no wrongdoing attached to their appointee’s Facebook page.
The board last week voted to suspend a recommendation to appoint Lansing resident Dan Ross as the newest member of the board, launching an investigation after a City Pulse reporter uncovered a slew of marijuana-related social media posts on Ross’ Facebook page.
“In the case of what Dan was doing on his personal Facebook page, it did not cost county resources,” explained Executive Director Anne Scott. “There was no flow of county resources to support Dan. I don’t think you can draw a line, in my interpretation of this, to a shunting of federal resources to support the sale of marijuana.”
By unanimous vote, the board’s membership committee reinstated Ross’ recommendation yesterday evening. That endorsement will head to the full board of directors later this month and, if passed, will eventually go to the county’s Board of Commissioners for final approval to name Ross as the 17th board member.
“It’s a very important distinction to make that Dan Ross is not currently a board member,” said membership committee chairman Sam Inglot. “He’s going through an education process. Dan is not in possession of the onboarding materials, which includes our ethics policy and other things like that.”
Ross’ Facebook page — in the months following his failed write-in campaign for Lansing City Council — included multiple pictures of bagged marijuana, a post advertising for $35 “quarters” and several invitations from Ross to his Facebook friends to “hit him up.” His appointment was paused while officials investigated.
One post from August noted that Ross was “taking orders.” Others suggested he had marijuana “on deck” and were filled with comments inquiring about pricing. One friend asked if Ross could “front” products until the end of the month. Other comments appeared to offer Ross thanks for providing his friends with marijuana.
Ross previously said that he doesn’t directly sell marijuana on his Facebook page but may “occasionally offer a way to get a good product at a very nice price.” He said he used to sell weed only to cardholding patients but wouldn’t consider himself a drug dealer — only the “Robin Hood” of ganja.
He also declined to comment on whether he buys marijuana legally through a licensed dispensary.
“I hate the way people are overcharged for many things, including marijuana,” Ross said previously. “It’s legal now, so if I can help someone out, hey, that’s what I do. … You always seem me with it, but you never see me saying I have it for sale. Maybe at a point in time very recently but not since running for City Council.”
Under state law, recreational marijuana sales are only permitted within the confines of a fully licensed dispensary. Friend-to-friend transactions, while arguably more culturally acceptable in recent years, remain illegal. An exception is carved out for “gifting” marijuana, but cash cannot legally be exchanged for black market products.
Committee members emphasized that their investigation looked only at potential violations of the county’s ethics policy or if Ross’ activity on Facebook could somehow jeopardize the flow of federal funding to ICHC. Whether Ross had ran afoul of any state or federal laws, officials contended, was none of their business.
Ross previously said his posts were “more of an invite for my friends to come smoke or save a little cash” rather than an actual sales mechanism. And that offer is usually only made available to a close-knit circle of his friends.
“Just because it’s on Facebook doesn’t mean I deal with strangers and everybody up under the sun,” Ross said. “I’m not a drug dealer. It’s not exactly my bread and butter. You might think a lot of people are hitting me up for smoke, but it’s really not. It’s the exact same friends of mine trying to get in on my bag. I get good smoke.”
Last night, Ross again denied any wrongdoing and claimed to have been ambiguously “targeted” for his posts.
“I don’t feel like I’ve done anything wrong, but I do want to apologize to the board for being brought into something that was targeted toward me. I think it was messy. It is speculation,” Ross said. “I feel like I’m a targeted person. They brought you guys in on it, and I think that was completely unfair on both ends.”
Ross’ appointment will still require a formal nod from health centers’ full board on Dec. 19 and again later next year from the county’s Board of Commissioners before he can be sworn in. Ingham County Commissioner Thomas Morgan, in the meantime, is already planning to OK the upcoming appointment.
“I really don’t have a problem with Mr. Ross’ proposed appointment and I’ll be voting to confirm him,” Morgan posted to Facebook. “So the guy sells a little weed to his friends — so what? We’re not talking about El Chapo here. We need diverse voices on our community boards, and Mr. Ross can bring a unique perspective.”