Emeryville man sues city over pot bust, plant deaths

December 09, 2004

Cecily Burt, Oakland Tribune

EMERYVILLE -- A man who said Emeryville police illegally arrested him and seized medical marijuana and growing equipment from his home a year ago, only to have his plants die and his possessions stolen while in police custody, sued the city Thursday in an effort to make police treat medical marijuana patients with greater compassion.

James Blair was arrested by Emeryville Police on Dec. 9, 2003, after they raided his Adeline Street home and confiscated about 30 plants, growing lights and other indoor cultivation equipment. Blair was released on bail but rearrested a month later and charged with possession with intent to sell the pot.

Blair said he broke his neck and has a prescription for medical marijuana from his doctor to help him sleep. He said the notice was posted on the door leading to the room where the plants were grown, but the police officers tore down and disregarded the notice.

Police Chief Ken James said previously that Blair never told police he was a medical marijuana patient or displayed his prescription.

The charges against Blair eventually were dismissed, but when Blair got a court order for the return of his property, the plants had died, and most of the equipment had been stolen in a burglary at the city's maintenance warehouse.

In his lawsuit, Blair, who is also a plaintiff in an ACLU lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of DNA testing of arrestees under Proposition 69, is seeking compensation for physical pain, mental anguish and severe emotional distress, fear and embarrassment.

Blair is also seeking damages for the loss of property and labor, medical expenses and attorneys' fees, and he wants the court to issue an order preventing the city and its peace officers from violating the state and constitutional rights of medical marijuana patients regarding unreasonable searches and seizures.

Emeryville City Attorney Mike Biddle did not return calls seeking comment about the lawsuit.

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