Fort Collins couple get medical marijuana plants returned
DENVER – It sounds like a pipe dream, but Jim and Lisa Masters are serious. They believe Fort Collins police detectives should have been watering, fertilizing and otherwise caring for 39 live medical marijuana plants seized from their home during a drug raid in August 2006.Police on Monday gave the plants and other materials – growing lights, fertilizer, loose marijuana – back to the couple after a judge last week said their property should be returned. Drug charges against them were dropped in June.When the couple drove their minivan to the police warehouse Monday to pick up the healthy, cannabis-producing plants they remembered, their plants were dead, dry, and in some cases, moldy.Their attorney, Brian Vicente, said he plans to file a lawsuit on their behalf on grounds that the couple’s property should have been returned undamaged.”It was kind of surreal,” said Vicente, who inventoried the material as it was given back to the couple. “There were 50 different bags with paperwork, some labeled ‘live’ marijuana plants. We opened them all and they were dead.”Fort Collins police spokeswoman Rita Davis said the department did not have a responsibility to care for the plants because the couple did not have proper documentation under the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment, which was approved by voters in 2000.She said because there was no paperwork identifying the couple as medical marijuana patients or medical marijuana providers, the case was treated as a regular drug case.”It would have been handled differently,” if they had the proper paperwork, Davis said.While the couple did not have documentation at the time of the raid, District Court Judge James Hiatt ruled the couple met the definition of caregivers under the law.Vicente said Jim and Lisa Masters proved they were providing marijuana to several licensed medical marijuana patients.”This is a great victory for medical marijuana patients,” James Masters said in a statement. “While I am disappointed by the condition of the plants, it is a relief to have them returned. I just hope other patients won’t have to suffer as I have.”Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario is among several law enforcement officials who have criticized the law, saying it compels police to grow the illegal plant to prove a case. In November 2005, prosecutors dropped a drug case after deputies destroyed 130 plants seized at an apartment. Officials submitted photos and cuttings of the plant, but a judge said the actual living plants had to be presented as evidence.
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