Fort Collins police return dead pot plants to couple

December 02, 2007

Howard Pankratz , Denver Post (CO)

More than three dozen marijuana plants seized by authorities from a Fort Collins couple were returned to them dead today by police.

The couple, James and Lisa Masters, along with their attorneys, said they will take legal action against the Fort Collins police and the Larimer County District Attorney's Office who they said by law had to return the plants undamaged.

"The Fort Collins police department absolutely did not obey the state law," said Brian Vicente, one of the couple's two lawyers.

"By law, the plants should not be damaged in any form. The police have destroyed the plants, they are dead, and we will take legal action to receive compensation."

Rita Davis, spokesperson for the Fort Collins Police Department, said that police were under no obligation to preserve the marijuana.

"At the time of the arrest, (James and Lisa Masters) were not on the medical marijuana registry list and did not have certification for possessing the marijuana," Davis said.

"The normal process of confiscating contraband does not require jurisdictions to keep it alive. It became a medical marijuana case after it was confiscated."

Larry Abrahamson, district for the 8th Judicial District, said that if a lawsuit is filed, the question will be whether the Masters have a valid medical marijuana claim.

If they weren't on the medical marijuana registry, they don't have a claim, said the district attorney.

The couple claimed that at the time police came to their home, they were medical marijuana patients using the plant to help their medical conditions, and to assist other medical marijuana patients.

James, 30, and Lisa, 32, said they have a variety of health problems and had a doctor's recommendation to use the medical marijuana, although at the time of the raid, they were not state-licensed marijuana patients or caregivers.

James said that the couple was indigent and could not afford the license at the time of the August 2006 police raid. However, with the assistance of others, they were able to receive a license several days after their release from jail.

The couple spent about 30 hours in jail after they were arrested; their two daughters, ages 6 and 7, were temporarily taken from them.

The charges against the couple were dismissed after a judge ruled that the police search of their home and the subsequent seizure of the plants were illegal.

Vicente said the property returned Monday was the largest of its kind ever in Colorado, and possibly the nation.

Howard Pankratz: 303-954-1939 or hpankratz@denverpost.com




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