Couple seeks compensation for pot

January 17, 2008

Trevor Hughes, The Coloradoan

In what is believed to be a first-of-its-kind request for Colorado, a Fort Collins couple is demanding police pay them more than $200,000 for improperly confiscating and destroying 39 marijuana plants.

"We are not going to stop the fight," James Masters said Thursday afternoon after filing the request at the Larimer County Justice Center.

Masters and his wife, Lisa, say they use marijuana to manage their medical conditions as allowed under Colorado's Amendment 20, approved by voters in 2000.

Police in August 2006 raided the couple's home, confiscating plants, pot and glassware. However, a judge ruled that the search warrant for that raid was improperly obtained and threw out the case. In June, he ordered Fort Collins police to return the plants.

The problem: The plants were already dead.

Thursday's filing sets the stage for a court hearing to determine just how much the plants were worth to the Masterses, and whether city taxpayers will have to shell out to cover the damages.

The Masterses' lawyer, Robert Corry Jr., likened the situation to that of having a pet accused of attacking someone. Police have a duty to care for the animal while they investigate, and the same should hold for the marijuana plants, he said.

"It's like any other case: Police need to return the property or compensate you," Corry said, noting that some estimates put the per-ounce price of marijuana higher than that of gold.

"This is a historic day. We are seeking compensation for medical marijuana," Corry added.

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

At the time of the initial ruling, Fort Collins police spokeswoman Rita Davis said, 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.

Thursday, Davis declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

Amendment 20 requires the "preservation of seized property interests that had been possessed, owned, or used in connection with a claimed medical use of marijuana and limiting forfeiture of such interests ..."

Thursday's filing values the plants at $5,200 each, for a total of $202,800. According to the High Times Web site, the nationwide average for an ounce of marijuana is $388. Medicinal marijuana, the Masterses and Corry said, is worth more because it is far more potent and grown "with love."

"Medical marijuana is expensive," Corry added.



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