Obiter Dicta

Weed Like Some Compensation

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When child welfare workers came calling in August 2006 at the Fort Collins, Colo., home of James and Lisa Mas­ters, the police came with them, as the welfare agency’s policy dictates. The Masterses admitted to having numerous marijuana plants on the premises—which they claimed were for medic­inal use—so police obtained a search warrant and confiscated 39 plants, as well as growing equipment.

Because the Masterses were not on the state’s medical marijuana regis­try list at the time, they were arrested and charged with felony cultivation and felony intent to distribute. In June, charges against the couple were dismissed after the search and seizure were ruled illegal.

The Masterses, citing numerous documented medical conditions, paid the fee to be on the registry. In De­cem­ber the plants were returned to them—dead. The couple reportedly plans to take legal action against the police department to be compensated for the value of the plants, which their attorney, Brian Vicente of Denver, estimates to be $100,000.

Vicente cites a provision of the Colorado Consti­tution that forbids destruction of medical marijuana or related equipment while in the possession of law enforcement officials.

Rita Davis, spokeswoman for the Fort Collins Police Department, says that police acted properly because the Masterses were not on the registry list at the time of confiscation, and that this should be treated as any other contraband case.

“A requirement to keep the plants alive,” she says, “did not pertain.”

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