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Medical Marijuana: Courts in California and Colorado Rule Cops Must Return Patient's Medicine

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #512)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Court rulings in two medical marijuana states this week slapped down law enforcement agencies who don't want to uphold the law. In both cases, judges ordered law enforcement agencies to return marijuana seized from patients or providers.

In Colorado, a Larimer County District Court judge ruled Monday that the sheriff's department must return 39 marijuana plants and growing equipment seized from a Fort Collins couple during an August 2006 raid. After listening to four hours of testimony in which patients told him James and Lisa Masters were growing for them, Judge James Hiatt issued a verbal order requiring the department to turn over the plants and equipment to the couple. Although the couple were not registered as caregivers, they were acting as caregivers and thus protected by the law, the judge held.

The couple's attorney, Brian Vicente, who also heads the marijuana advocacy group Sensible Colorado, warned authorities that his clients will seek compensation if the sheriff's department does not deliver the plants in good condition. "If they've allowed these plants to die, they've broken the law," said Vicente, adding that he estimated their combined value at $100,000.

The district court ruling could be appealed. Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson had not decided by week's end whether his office would appeal.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a California appeals court ordered the Garden Grove Police Department to return marijuana it seized from a patient. Police had seized eight grams of marijuana from Felix Kha during a June 2005 traffic stop. Prosecutors dropped marijuana possession charges after Kha proved he had a doctor's recommendation. Kha asked for his medicine back, and his trial judge agreed. But the city appealed, arguing that it should not have to violate federal drug laws.

In its Wednesday opinion, a three-judge panel from the Fourth Appellate District slapped the city down, saying state law comes first. "By returning Kha's marijuana to him, the Garden Grove police would not just be upholding the principles of federalism... They would be fulfilling their more traditional duty to administer the laws of this state," the opinion read. "We do not believe that federal drug laws supersede or preempt Kha's right to a return of his property,'' they later continued.

Medical marijuana advocates, who have tallied dozens of similar seizures by local law enforcement agencies, called the ruling a victory for patients' and states' rights. "It should now be abundantly clear to law enforcement across the state that it is not acceptable to seize the medicine of seriously ill patients," said Joe Elford, who represented Kha as Chief Counsel for Americans for Safe Access.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

they ought to just legalize it after all this time and let us be. i'd rather be able to smoke my pot legally for my illness than take the pills i do legally. i'm glad these people won. God Bless us all.

Fri, 11/30/2007 - 9:33pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I realize that citing the countless examples of successful, liberal drug policies elsewhere in this tiny world of ours can seem like tired rhetoric to some. Let them wallow in their ignorance. I don't think that this represents a struggle for policies that are just. I think that what we have here is a contest for control that can only be won by we, the people. Stand for what you believe in, folks. Don't let them bully you. Kudos to the states of California and Colorado for defending their voters' wishes.
Washington Joe.

Fri, 11/30/2007 - 11:43pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

" Ron Paul is the greatest friend the cannabis culture and medical cannabis community has ever had in Washington, DC. In the most recent Congressional session, Dr. Paul voted to rescind the Office of the Drug Czar (ONDCP) and its vile chief John Walters. Ron Paul was the chief sponsor of the 2007 Industrial Hemp Act. Dr. Paul is co-sponsor of the annual Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment that seeks to stop the Justice Dept. from raiding and arresting medical marijuana compassion clubs and patients. Dr. Paul always votes against any government anti-drug advertising. Congressman Paul is co-sponsor of the Steve McWilliams Truth in Trials Act, which would allow the introdiction of medical necessity in a federal court.

Now Ron Paul is a serious candidate for the Republican nomination for President in 2008. But he needs our support now, in the months leading up to the primary vote to determine who the Republican nominee will be. If Ron Paul wins the Republican nomination, it means uber-prohibitionists and authoritarians like Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and the three creationists Huckabee, Tancredo, and Brownback will NOT be on the ballot in November 2008.

While I admire Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel of the Democratic Party for their stands on the repeal of marijuana prohibition, Ron Paul would pardon all non-violent drug offenders in jail who are victims of this unconstitutional war on US citizens, he would abandon the Drug Enforcement Administration and cancel the office of the Drug Czar. Ron Paul would end the war in Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. Ron Paul wants to repeal the Income Tax and reduce the amount of money the federal government gets to wage wars at home and abroad.

Ron Paul is not a President for just 2008, a Ron Paul Presidency would impact generations to come. Ron Paul is a wonderful, intelligent, decent man who never avoids a question asked, and always is the Champion of the Bill of Rights. In Cannabis Culture Magazine #62, Ron Paul had a perfect voting record in every vote we tracked on the drug war (against in every way), Plan Colombia (against), Homeland Security (against), Patriot Act (against), and the Torture School at School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia (close it). Ron Paul had a perfect record of voting for freedom and liberty every time.

There will be no better man for President in our generation. Please join me in changing the world for the better, please support Ron Paul in any way you can. Register to vote, affiliate Republican and do ALL you can for this incredibly decent and principled man."

--- Marc Emery, Cannabis Culture Magazine.

Mon, 12/03/2007 - 7:12pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I live in Florida. At the Florida border there is a sign (should be)
Jeb Bush still Governor.

This will be the very last state to change its drug laws....all Republican....all conservative.

Mon, 12/03/2007 - 8:18pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

totally FL sucks for pot laws and many other things as well. I just finished 2 years probation for an oz of kind. BS all the other states I have lived in would barely even flinched at this amount CA CO NY. Here in FL it is a felony ridiculous

Tue, 12/04/2007 - 10:54pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

if we ever get to a point where we can all look back at the closing of this incredibly failure of a chapter in our history, these two truly heroic decisions will be recognized as landmarks.

Mon, 12/03/2007 - 8:18pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified) least in California (where I have been an advicate for patients rights for the last 7 years) situations like these only give the State cops more reason to bring a "ride-along". This is a tactic used by CA law inforcement when raiding a known medical facility or patient, they bring local DEA agents to the raid under the STATE warrent. Since the state cops know they can't do anything about the facility/patient under state law, they turn it over to the DEA agents accompanying them. Fight the source, until Fed laws are changed or abolished, we're all still in the same boat no matter what state you live in!

Mon, 12/03/2007 - 8:54pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

they should just forget about trying to end this matter about doing what they think they can get gone from this matter that is in force right now -cause it is here to stay for now and for ever and ever and a day. cause it is a good thing for it to be in the world big daddy

Tue, 12/04/2007 - 3:56pm Permalink

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