Couple Wants Police To Pay For Damaged Marijuana Plants

January 16, 2008

Lance Hernandez, KMGH TV News7 - Denver

James and Lisa Masters said they want to send a message to police departments all across Colorado. The couple and one of their attorneys filed a motion late Thursday seeking compensation for 39 damaged medical marijuana plants.

"We're hoping that they'll at least be more careful when they go into people's homes," Lisa Masters said. "

And if they (homeowners) claim medical use, then they (police) should keep those plants alive instead of having to pay for it later."

Police confiscated the Masters' plants in August of 2006 on the same day that human service officials removed the couple's two children, because of the marijuana.

"They took our life away for a year and a half," James Masters said.

Police returned the marijuana last month after a judge ruled the plants were seized illegally.

But the plants were dead. Now the couple wants to be compensated.

"The cannibus means a lot to me because it keeps me and my wife well," said James Masters.

James said he suffers from chronic nausea and pain, and that his wife suffers symptoms of fibromyalgia.

When asked how much compensation they're seeking, the couple's attorney, Robert Corry, replied, "We're asking for the Drug Enforcement Agency's estimate of what the marijuana plants are worth.

That could be well over $1,000 a plant.

"I think it's fundamental that we're able to use the same figures that they use against us," James said. "If they're inflated, then maybe they (the DEA) shouldn't be using them in a court of law to condemn somebody for five or six years."

"Medical marijuana is worth more than gold by weight," Corry said. "I'm not an expert in current gold prices, but I think by ounce, medical marijuana is worth more."

The request for compensation, filed with the Larimer County District Court, is believed to be the first such request in Colorado history.

"Colorado law states that plants seized in connection with the claimed use of medical marijuana shall not be destroyed while in the possession of state or local law enforcement," said Brian Vicente, an attorney for the Masters. "The police were aware that these plants were for medical use -- and they destroyed them anyway."

Police declined to comment about the motion, but they did say that when the plants were confiscated, the Masters told them they were medical marijuana users. But when asked for documentation, the couple didn't have any.

"They were not registered and were not certified," said Rita Davis of the Fort Collins Police Department.

Corry said police have an obligation to take care of medical marijuana plants.

He likened it to a case involving a vicious animal.

"Let's say police come and take your dog and allege that it's a vicious animal," Corry said. "They can't just shut your dog up in a cage and not water or feed it or care for it."

Corry said they have to preserve it.

Lisa Masters said the motion seeking compensation isn't just for them.

"We're fighting for everybody who's a medical marijuana patient who gets messed with by law enforcement, or who gets their plants taken away, or gets ostracized for being a medical marijuana user," she said.

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