ACLU files suit over raid

January 16, 2008

Tom Moody, Current-Argus (NM)

CARLSBAD — A paraplegic Malaga man who holds a medical marijuana permit from the state of New Mexico filed a lawsuit Thursday against Eddy County and several county law officers for their part in a drug raid that seized his marijuana plants and growing equipment, attorneys announced.

Also named as defendants in the suit are David Edmondson, commander of the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force, and four unidentified Eddy County Sheriff's deputies. The suit was filed in state district court in Carlsbad.

Leonard French, 44, was using his marijuana to control pain and muscle spasms that resulted from a spinal cord injury he received in a 1987 motorcycle accident, he said in an earlier interview.

French had received a license to cultivate and use small quantities of marijuana for medicinal purpose under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, the complaint stated.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, which is representing French, said the deputies violated several laws including a constitutional prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

In addition to asking the court to bar the state from interfering with his right to use marijuana under the medical marijuana law, French also seeks compensatory damages and attorney fees.

Eddy County Sheriff Kent Waller said Thursday that he had not seen the lawsuit yet.

"To my knowledge we have not actually received anything yet," he said. "We had received a notice that they were reserving the right to sue."

On Sept. 4, Eddy County deputies working with the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force arrived at French's house in Malaga.

"They said they were here about the marijuana," French said. "I thought they were here to make sure I was in compliance with the new law."

French showed the deputies his state license to grow marijuana and then showed them his equipment and his plants, he said.

The deputies took the equipment and the plants, turning them over to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. French has not been charged with any violations of federal drug laws, attorneys stated.

"With the Compassionate Use Act, New Mexico embarked on an innovative project to help people who suffer from painful conditions like Mr. French's," Peter Simonson, ACLU executive director, stated in a news release. "The law cannot succeed if the threat of arrest by county and local law enforcement hangs over participants in the program.

"With this lawsuit, we hope to clear the way for the state to implement a sensible, conservative program to apply a drug that traditionally has been considered illicit for constructive purposes."

The ACLU complaint is available online at http://aclu-nm.org/PDF/French_1_17_08.pdf.



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