Boulder Cops Return Seized Pot to C.U. Student

September 2008

C.U. campus police seized two ounces of marijuana from student Edward Nicholson's dorm room. As a result, he was charged with possession of marijuana and suspended by C.U. It turns out, Nicholson had a caregiver's medical marijuana card, allowing him to distribute to medical marijuana patients, even though he himself wasn't a medical marijuana patient. His criminal charges for possession of marijuana were dismissed, and his suspension by C.U. has been reversed. And Nicholson got his pot back.

The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday on an ongoing story regarding Fort Collins couple James and Lisa Masters, who are still considering a lawsuit against the city for destroying 39 marijuana plants wrongfully seized from them more than two years ago. The couple says the plants had a value of $200,000.

[T]he case against the Masterses -- who claimed they used the drug for medical purposes -- fell apart, and a judge ordered the police to return their property. "All the plants were dead," said Brian Vicente, one of the attorneys for the couple. "Some had turned to liquid -- this black, moldy liquid. There was mold over everything." Incensed, the couple asked the Police Department to reimburse them $200,000 for the destroyed plants.

Colorado's medical marijuana law contains a unique provision:

Of the 12 states that have legalized marijuana for medical use, Colorado stands out for its law specifying that police must not "harm, neglect or destroy" seized plants in such cases, said Noah Mamber, legal services coordinator for Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group.

This means police may have a duty to safeguard seized pot. Vicente argues:

If the police take your pit bull, do they put it in an evidence locker for two months or do they take care of it? We plan on holding the police accountable. We're talking about people's medicine here.

As a law enforcement officer told the Times, "It's uncharted waters here."

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