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Posted: 8/18/2004 9:24:11 AM EST
Patients sue over seized cannabis

By Laura Counts, STAFF WRITER

OAKLAND -- More than three dozen medical cannabis patients from 36 California counties filed simultaneous lawsuits Tuesday demanding the return of about $1 million worth of marijuana seized by law enforcement officers the past few years.

In all those cases, the plaintiffs proved they were medical marijuana patients and were never charged with possessing the drug, or had charges against them dropped, according to the Berkeley nonprofit that organized the lawsuits. But they never got their pot back, and they want it now, or at least its cash value.

"There are 36 filing today, but this is just the beginning," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, which coordinated the cases. "When we look at implementation of Proposition 215, it's surprising to see such a culture of resistance among law enforcement."

Just three of the 38 plaintiffs filed their cases in Alameda County. Another

lives in San Leandro but filed in Contra Costa County, where he was arrested. Two of the cases involve the Oakland Police Department and the third involves San Leandro police.

The Alameda County plaintiffs are seeking relatively tiny amounts of the drug. One Oakland man is seeking the return of 2 grams -- enough for a few joints -- and a Berkeley man is seeking 5 grams seized by Oakland police.

The San Leandro plaintiff claims police took 21/2 pounds of his medicine in October 2002.

Alameda County District Attorney's Office representatives said they had not received the cases yet and could not comment.

Chris Hermes, legal coordinator for Americans for Safe Access, said the group had received so many complaints from patients who lost their marijuana in busts that it decided to do a study. It logged calls for three months and received more than 100 complaints. It culled those down to the 38 who met the criteria to sue.

The group argued such cases are an unnecessary expense for a state in which voters approved the Proposition 215 "compassionate access law" in 1996.

"We used estimates to determine what it costs to arrest someone and prosecute them, and determined that law enforcement is spending $4 million a year," Hermes said in a conference call. "The return of the property in these cases has accumulated to almost $1 million."

The lawsuits were filed as criminal rather than civil cases because they involve an encounter with law enforcement, said William Dolphin of Safe Access. The penal code allows those whose property was seized unlawfully to retrieve it through a judge's order or receive compensation if it has been lost or destroyed.

The cases must be filed individually in the counties where the seizures occurred and cannot be bundled together. Patients have filed such lawsuits individually in the past, Dolphin said.

Hermes said seizure of cannabis from patients is not "an isolated thing," but happens in "almost every law enforcement encounter." Safe Access has put together a model policy for law enforcement to follow in medical marijuana cases. Some already have such policies.

Lt. Rick Hart of the Oakland Police Department said he is formulating a written policy for the return of medical cannabis, but the department already allows it.

"If the case is dropped, they can come down and talk to the vice officer who handled it," he said. "If they are entitled to it, they can get it back. If it's a large amount, the crime lab has taken a sample and destroyed the rest, so we are working on a policy for them. But small amounts shouldn't be a problem."

Even medical marijuana activists praised the Oakland Police Department for its policies. Angel McClary Raich, who won a federal court victory allowing her to possess and use marijuana as her medicine, said she recently helped a patient get a quarter-pound of pot back.

"I've worked with them very closely," she said. "The moment they find out it's medical, they'll take photos or videos or clippings from the plants. If a patient has a card they'll call to verify it or call the doctor. It's not perfect, but overall they've attempted to do a really good job."

August 18, 2004


Maybe if they "medicated" at home instead of in public it wouldnt be a problem.
Link Posted: 8/18/2004 9:28:02 AM EST
Sure, why not?
Link Posted: 8/18/2004 9:29:21 AM EST
If they weren't charged with a crime, why was the medicine confiscated in the first place???

They should get it back.
Link Posted: 8/18/2004 9:31:02 AM EST

Originally Posted By lvgunner777:
If they weren't charged with a crime, why was the medicine confiscated in the first place???

They should get it back.



Yeah, then the Feds could charge the state or California with delivery of a controlled substance!

Link Posted: 8/18/2004 9:34:14 AM EST
[Last Edit: 8/18/2004 9:35:19 AM EST by AR15fan]

Originally Posted By lvgunner777:
If they weren't charged with a crime, why was the medicine confiscated in the first place???

They should get it back.



Because everyone caught with pot claims its "medication", which is impossible for the officer in the field to verify. So most agencies still collect the evidence and issue the citation. Then if the suspect really does have a Rx, he can bring a doctors note to the DA and have the case dismissed.

It's a flawed system for sure. Rx THC is available in drops and pills, so there is no real need for "Medical Marijuana" But that entire debate isnt really about medication anyway. That's just a smoke screen.

I have had tweekers tell me the methamphetamine they were carrying is medication for cronic fatgue syndrome.
Link Posted: 8/18/2004 9:41:41 AM EST
Why would anyone want pot thats a few years old? Thats the HARACKS! Old dry twigs!

Link Posted: 8/18/2004 9:43:04 AM EST

Originally Posted By AR15fan:

Originally Posted By lvgunner777:
If they weren't charged with a crime, why was the medicine confiscated in the first place???

They should get it back.



Because everyone caught with pot claims its "medication", which is impossible for the officer in the field to verify. So most agencies still collect the evidence and issue the citation. Then if the suspect really does have a Rx, he can bring a doctors note to the DA and have the case dismissed.

It's a flawed system for sure. Rx THC is available in drops and pills, so there is no real need for "Medical Marijuana" But that entire debate isnt really about medication anyway. That's just a smoke screen.

I have had tweekers tell me the methamphetamine they were carrying is medication for cronic fatgue syndrome.




If they can produce a prescription for the pot it shoudn't be an issue. IF they can't produce the prescription, that is their problem.
Link Posted: 8/18/2004 10:04:39 AM EST

Originally Posted By lvgunner777:

Originally Posted By AR15fan:

Originally Posted By lvgunner777:
If they weren't charged with a crime, why was the medicine confiscated in the first place???

They should get it back.



Because everyone caught with pot claims its "medication", which is impossible for the officer in the field to verify. So most agencies still collect the evidence and issue the citation. Then if the suspect really does have a Rx, he can bring a doctors note to the DA and have the case dismissed.

It's a flawed system for sure. Rx THC is available in drops and pills, so there is no real need for "Medical Marijuana" But that entire debate isnt really about medication anyway. That's just a smoke screen.

I have had tweekers tell me the methamphetamine they were carrying is medication for cronic fatgue syndrome.




If they can produce a prescription for the pot it shoudn't be an issue. IF they can't produce the prescription, that is their problem.



I've never had anyone produce a prescription from an actual MD, which could be verified by calling either the DR, his assistant, or after hours answering service. Thats the standard we go by for other controlled medications, like Vicodin & oxycontin. You have a prescription, great what is your doctors name and phone number. Then we call the Doctor to verify. Never been able to with someone claiming "medical" marijuana.
Link Posted: 8/18/2004 11:36:25 AM EST

Originally Posted By AR15fan:

Originally Posted By lvgunner777:

Originally Posted By AR15fan:

Originally Posted By lvgunner777:
If they weren't charged with a crime, why was the medicine confiscated in the first place???

They should get it back.



Because everyone caught with pot claims its "medication", which is impossible for the officer in the field to verify. So most agencies still collect the evidence and issue the citation. Then if the suspect really does have a Rx, he can bring a doctors note to the DA and have the case dismissed.

It's a flawed system for sure. Rx THC is available in drops and pills, so there is no real need for "Medical Marijuana" But that entire debate isnt really about medication anyway. That's just a smoke screen.

I have had tweekers tell me the methamphetamine they were carrying is medication for cronic fatgue syndrome.




If they can produce a prescription for the pot it shoudn't be an issue. IF they can't produce the prescription, that is their problem.



I've never had anyone produce a prescription from an actual MD, which could be verified by calling either the DR, his assistant, or after hours answering service. Thats the standard we go by for other controlled medications, like Vicodin & oxycontin. You have a prescription, great what is your doctors name and phone number. Then we call the Doctor to verify. Never been able to with someone claiming "medical" marijuana.




Ok then what is the line between medical marijauna and illegal possesion? What line has to be crossed and how do you prove it be for medicinal use???
Link Posted: 8/18/2004 11:44:36 AM EST
On a similar note, if just half of the people that got speeding tickets took everyone of them to court - the legal system would become crippled.

I guess they don't call this a war on drugs for nothing.
Link Posted: 8/19/2004 3:01:18 AM EST

Originally Posted By lvgunner777:
how do you prove it be for medicinal use???



An actual Rx written by an MD.

Potheads instead will produce a "letter of recommended treatment" written by their chiropractor or dog trainer....
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