Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Author: Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer
Published: Friday, December 10, 2004 - Page B - 5
Copyright: 2004 San Francisco Chronicle
Contact: [email protected]
A medicinal marijuana user busted for growing pot sued the city of
Emeryville on Thursday, saying police refused to return his seized
plants -- and later told him that thieves stole much of his property
from a secured storage site.
James Blair, 45, of Emeryville, said he found it ironic that the same
plants that had been taken away from him a year ago could have fallen
into the wrong hands.
"What they've done, effectively, is taken a controlled substance and
made it available in an uncontrolled way to some members of the public,"
Blair said. "Their role is to keep drugs out of the hands of people who
aren't supposed to have them."
The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland, asks for
a court injunction that would prohibit Emeryville police from
"continuing to violate the statutory and constitutional rights of
qualified medical marijuana patients" under state law.
In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, which allows the
use of marijuana for medical purposes with a doctor's recommendation.
The suit names the city of Emeryville, the police department and Sgt.
LaJuan Collier, who led the investigation. Collier declined comment on
the suit Thursday, as did City Attorney Michael Biddle and Police Chief
But James confirmed that thieves broke into the city's Public Works
storage building on Horton Street in January or February, cutting off
locks from cages and making off with $35,000 in evidence from a number
of cases, including some of Blair's property.
Also stolen were chain saws, pressure washers, generators and other
equipment, the chief said. Investigators had suspected it was an inside
job because the thieves had the access codes for the site. No arrests
have been made.
In November 2003, the manager of Blair's apartment complex smelled a
pungent odor coming from his unit while showing a nearby unit to a
renter, court records show. The manager said he earned a degree in
forestry from Humboldt State University and recognized the smell to be
marijuana, documents say.
The manager entered the unit and found a locked room designed to grow
marijuana. Police served a search warrant on Dec. 9, 2003, seizing 30
full- grown plants and equipment that included grow lamps, pH meters,
air filters, timers and pumps, records show.
One officer "tore a copy of the physician's recommendation from the wall
of the grow room, crumpled it into a ball and threw it on the floor,"
the suit said.
Blair said he uses "a couple of grams" of marijuana each day to
alleviate symptoms from a neck injury incurred in a 1994 diving accident
He was charged with cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale,
but the charges were dropped in February because of insufficient
evidence and "in the interest of justice" after his attorney and
physician told prosecutors that he was a medical marijuana patient,
After a judge issued a court order in April for the return of his
property, Blair presented it to police but was rebuffed, the lawsuit
said. He received a letter in June notifying him of the break-in.
In September, Blair received "a fraction" of the seized plants. "The
plants had deteriorated, with the buds cut from them and were unusable,"
the suit said.
Blair's attorney, Joseph Elford of Americans for Safe Access, a national
advocacy group based in Berkeley, said his client is among many medical
marijuana users who have to fight to reclaim their plants. "If the
police would just leave these people alone, the marijuana wouldn't be
used for reasons the police are concerned about," Elford said.
Related Article & Web Site:
Americans for Safe Access
Marijuana Evidence Can't Be Returned
CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives