Uncharted Waters in Medical Pot Cases

University of Colorado campus police seized two ounces of marijuana from student Edward Nicholson's dorm room. As a result, he was charged with possession of marijuana and suspended by C.U.

It turns out, Nicholson had a caregiver's medical marijuana card, allowing him to distribute to medical marijuana patients, even though he himself wasn't a medical marijuana patient.

His criminal charges for possession of marijuana were dismissed and his suspension by C.U. has been reversed. Now, Nicholson wants his pot back and his lawyer says he believes that will happen. [Update: the local news tonight showed Nicholson leaving the police department with his pot. They gave it back.][ More...]

The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that a Fort Collins couple, Jim and Lisa Masters, who are considering a lawsuit against the city for destroying 39 marijuana plants wrongfully seized from them. The couple says the plants had a value of $200,000.

[T]he case against the Masterses -- who claimed they used the drug for medical purposes -- fell apart, and a judge ordered the police to return their property. "All the plants were dead," said Brian Vicente, one of the attorneys for the couple. "Some had turned to liquid -- this black, moldy liquid. There was mold over everything." Incensed, the couple asked the Police Department to reimburse them $200,000 for the destroyed plants. City officials refused, and the Masterses are now considering a lawsuit to compel the northern Colorado city to compensate them.

Colorado's medical marijuana law contains a unique provision:

Of the 12 states that have legalized marijuana for medical use, Colorado stands out for its law specifying that police must not "harm, neglect or destroy" seized plants in such cases, said Noah Mamber, legal services coordinator for Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group.

This means police may have a duty to safeguard seized pot. One of the Masters' attorneys argues:

[P]olice should care for the plants they take just as they would an animal or child removed from a home. "If the police take your pit bull, do they put it in an evidence locker for two months or do they take care of it?" Vicente said. "We plan on holding the police accountable. We're talking about people's medicine here."

As a law enforcement officer told the Times, "It's uncharted waters here."

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  • Display: Sort:
    Hydro or Bushweed... (none / 0) (#1)
    by Salo on Mon Sep 22, 2008 at 03:49:24 PM EST

    With cavets I would take my plants back (none / 0) (#2)
    by Saul on Mon Sep 22, 2008 at 04:03:29 PM EST
    I doubt it very seriously if police will go out of their way to take care of plants of pot.  

    I can just see the cops giving the plants back.

    Here's you're plants but I would be careful who you give this stuff too because it could have been contaminated while it was in the evidence room.

    In that case, (none / 0) (#12)
    by sj on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 09:56:49 AM EST
    the police would be the ones breaking the law.  I hope they get sanctioned or at least spanked.  There are even more obligated to follow the law in my opinion.  I have to follow lots of laws I don't believe in.  They're not entitled to an exception.

    You are probably right (none / 0) (#14)
    by Saul on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 10:07:55 AM EST
    but the point I am making is even if it came to that there would be very little sympathy for not taking care of plants of pots.  Those that cared would be a small minority.  Unfortunately, sometimes it just not the letter of the law.  I can see a judge saying,
    You want me to punish these guys for not taking care of plants of pots?

    California must have a similar provision (none / 0) (#3)
    by Semanticleo on Mon Sep 22, 2008 at 04:12:26 PM EST
    In a case near Santa Barbara, Ca, a man with a current MM card had his stash (3 oz) confiscated by the local police, who were subsequently ordered to return it.  They couldn't find it (up in smoke!)and had to buy it out of the petty cash.  The man wasn't happy with the quality of the first submission, and sent them back twice more until he had a match...

    Jerry Brown... (none / 0) (#8)
    by Dawn Davenport on Mon Sep 22, 2008 at 05:59:09 PM EST
    ...as CA attorney general, issued new guidelines last month for the statewide enforcement of the medical-marijuana laws that address situations such as this one, and require the return of the seized pot if no criminal violations of state law existed at the time of the bust.

    To be a fly on the wall... (none / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Mon Sep 22, 2008 at 04:41:34 PM EST
    when government agents have to give the tyrannized their property back...must be a sight to see.

    One of the bright sides of the Wall St. bailout...maybe our government's credit will finally run out and we won't have to worry about them stealing people's pot anymore, at least at the federal level.  And without federal drug-fighting funds, the states might wise up sooner without the cash cow, like Colorado and California have.  

    Every cloud has a silver lining if you look hard enough....national bankruptcy might not be all bad:)

    (Whispers quietly, to not annoy too many folks...) (none / 0) (#5)
    by straleno on Mon Sep 22, 2008 at 04:44:11 PM EST
    "Uncharted." Not "unchartered."

    Sorry to be that guy.

    while we're being picky (none / 0) (#6)
    by GeekLove08 on Mon Sep 22, 2008 at 05:02:44 PM EST
    "Unhchartered" without the first "h" ;-)

    thanks, I fixed it (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Sep 22, 2008 at 05:30:18 PM EST
    much appreciated!

    The kids got it back (none / 0) (#9)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Mon Sep 22, 2008 at 09:21:24 PM EST
    Just saw a teaser for the 10pm news and he had a big smile and a baggie.

    I wonder why... (none / 0) (#15)
    by kdog on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 10:09:03 AM EST
    the man hates smiles so much...smiles are a beautiful thing.

    Heh heh (none / 0) (#10)
    by roy on Mon Sep 22, 2008 at 10:46:55 PM EST
    I know it's a serious issue, but I can't help chuckling at the police watering the plants, picking bugs off the leaves, and installing grow lamps in the evidence locker.

    Good for Nicholson though.  It's just a shame it took so much work to get the cops to acknowledge the part of the law they happen not to like.

    What happened to the Feds? (none / 0) (#11)
    by SeeEmDee on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 06:33:12 AM EST
    Usually the locals bring in the Feds to buffer them against such demands to return the stolen meds. Looks like that didn't take place this time.  

    :: shrug :: (none / 0) (#13)
    by sj on Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 09:59:15 AM EST