Compensation sought for dead pot plants

December 03, 2007

Sara Reed, The Coloradoan

It took 16 months, but a Fort Collins couple Monday finally retrieved the medical marijuana seized from their home in August 2006. But the battle is far from over.

The cultivation and possession charges against James and Lisa Masters, medical marijuana patients and caregivers for other patients, were dropped in June, but it wasn't until late last month that Chief District Court Judge James Hiatt ruled the police had to return the property.

What they got back, however, was dried, musty and moldy.

James Masters said he was "very, very happy to see this come to fruition," but he was sad to see the plants had not been maintained as required by law.

"This is a resounding, decisive victory for Colorado voters, compassion and medical marijuana," said Brian Vicente, one of the attorneys who represented the couple throughout the case.

Voters approved the amendment in November 2000. There are 14 states with medical marijuana laws.

The charges were dropped after Hiatt ruled that the search warrant used to seize the plants, growing equipment and paraphernalia resulted from an illegal search.

But none of the plants seized, including about 15 that were nearly ready for harvest, survived. The Masters' attorneys plan to go back to the judge later this month and request financial compensation for the destroyed plants, which could be valued at more than $100,000.

The couple could sue for the damages, but they're going to go to the judge first, Vicente said.

Police have said they don't have the resources to care for medical marijuana plants, something James Masters has offered to help them with.

Fort Collins police spokeswoman Rita Davis has said that, because the couple did not have valid medical marijuana certificates at the time of their arrest, the pot was treated like any other confiscation case.

The Masters' attorneys said the amendment is clear on the issue that all marijuana seized in connection with the claimed use of medical marijuana must be maintained.

"You'd expect the police to follow the law," said Rob Corry, co-counsel in the case.

The couple did not have medical marijuana certificates from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Safety at the time of their arrests, but James Masters advised that anyone with a doctor's recommendation for it should get their certificate before starting treatment. He acknowledged that some patients aren't comfortable with having their names in a state database.

"What I hope this really accomplishes is that (patients) realize the safety the department of health offers," James Masters said. "Before you do anything else, put that (doctor's) recommendation in the mail."

The couple said they plan to continue providing medical marijuana to their patients and building the medical marijuana community.

"We're here to provide safe, legal medicine," Lisa Masters said.



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