Monday, July 29, 2013
C.A. Rejects Suit Over Seizure of ‘Medical’ Marijuana
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Law enforcement officers who raided a marijuana field in a remote area of Humboldt County, and seized and later destroyed over 1,500 pounds of cannabis, did not violate the owners’ constitutional or statutory rights, including the right to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, the First District Court of Appeal has ruled.
Div. Three, in a June 28 opinion certified Thursday for publication, affirmed a Humboldt Superior Court judge’s grant of summary judgment to the county in a suit by Roscoe Littlefield and four others. Roscoe Littlefield, who is in his 80s, was the subject of a 1987 Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that allowed authorities to seize a 40-acre spread because marijuana was grown on two acres of it.
The raid by Humboldt deputies and agents of the state Campaign Against Marijuana Planting centered on two gardens of the Littlefield property, containing a total of 214 plants, each between three and eight feet tall. Posted on the front gate were medical marijuana recommendations for four of the plaintiffs—Littlefield, his wife Sylvia, his son Timothy, and Jeffrey Libertini.
According to the recommendations, Roscoe Littlefield suffered from degenerative joint disease, his wife from degenerative joint disease and glaucoma, and his son from low back pain and anxiety. No ailment was specified for Libertini.
The recommendations specified that each of the plaintiffs needed to use two ounces of marijuana per day, so the 1,508 pounds that were seized would have supplied their needs for more than five years, Justice Peter Siggins noted in his opinion.
The county disposed of the marijuana under Health and Safety Code Sec. 11479, which specifies procedures for the destruction of controlled substances when it is unsafe or impractical to store the drugs while awaiting the outcome of legal proceedings.
The plaintiffs, who were not arrested or charged with a crime, claimed in their complaint that the seizure violated their rights. They asked for more than $600,000 to replace the marijuana, plus damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and medical expenses.
Judge Christopher Wilson, in granting summary judgment, ruled that the officers had probable cause to seize the plants, that a medical marijuana recommendation in and of itself does not immunize the user from seizure of the substance, and that the state’s medical marijuana laws did not bar confiscation of the drugs in the absence of evidence that they were necessary to meet the plaintiffs’ current medical needs.
Siggins, writing for the Court of Appeal, agreed.
The plaintiffs, he said, failed to proffer admissible evidence that they needed 1,500 pounds of marijuana to meet their medical needs.
He agreed with the trial judge that while Jason Browne, whose declaration the plaintiffs offered, may be qualified to testify about medical marijuana generally, his declaration did not establish “that he possesses the requisite expertise to render a medical opinion as to the specific needs of the plaintiffs.”
Nor could their doctor’s written recommendations establish the legality of possession, because they were hearsay for that purpose, Siggins said.
The case is Littlefield v. County of Humboldt, 13 S.O.S. 3834.
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company