Emeryville, CA -- James Blair, a spinal injury patient arrested on marijuana cultivation charges in 2003, received a check today from the City of Emeryville for $15,000 for marijuana seized by the Emeryville Police Department. Assisted by the patient advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Blair received one of the largest cash settlements to date in a case of wrongful police action in regard to medical marijuana.The City of Emeryville has now adopted a policy of not confiscating medical marijuana from qualified patients who show a valid medical marijuana identification card or doctor’s recommendation.
Blair's attorney, Americans for Safe Access' Chief Counsel Joe Elford, noted, "Wins like this are what tipped the balance in the Civil Rights movement. The police are most responsive to financial pressures and will be deterred from violating the rights of medical marijuana patients when they are compelled to pay for their mistakes through lawsuits like this one."
"By making government pay for their transgressions through successful lawsuits like Blair v. Emeryville PD," agreed Blair as he received his check, "Americans for Safe Access and I are going to force police agencies to adopt sensible policies for enforcement of the Compassionate Use Act."
James Blair had 30 full-grown plants and a considerable amount of cultivation equipment seized by the Emeryville Police Department (EPD) on December 9, 2003. After Blair's criminal case resulted in a dismissal of all charges (cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale), a Superior Court Judge issued a court order on April 20, 2004, for the return of his property, including the medical marijuana. Soon after, Blair went with court order in hand to pick up his property from EPD, and was verbally denied it. Under threat of contempt of court, EPD finally agreed to return only some of Blair's property.
In a letter dated June 28, 2004, the Emeryville Police Chief stated that due to "a burglary of an off-site secured storage facility," many of Blair's items are "no longer in our possession." The items reportedly stolen from the police include most of his cultivation equipment and the usable portion of his medical marijuana plants.
With Blair’s settlement in hand, and a commitment by ASA to encourage widespread adoption of sound police policies on medical marijuana, advocates are well on their way to making the streets safer for patients. In August 2005, ASA forced a change to how the California Highway Patrol deals with medical marijuana patients. As a result of a lawsuit filed by ASA in early 2005 against the agency, a sweeping policy change took effect that further protected patients’ rights.
"Local lawmakers should be instructing local police to follow state law," said ASA Legal Director Kris Hermes. "This victory should serve as notice that ASA will continue to seek justice for violation of patients' rights throughout the state."
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A national coalition of 25,000 patients, doctors and advocates, Americans for Safe Access is the largest organization working to advance legal medical marijuana therapies and research. To learn more, see www.SafeAccessNow.org.