Lawsuit: Request denied for compensation after marijuana seizure

Emily Jo Cureton, The Triplicate

A lawsuit against Crescent City stemming from seized marijuana was dismissed last week in Del Norte County Superior Court.

The suit arose out of Crescent City Police Department's seizure of 18 marijuana plants and over 100 pounds of processed marijuana, grown by a man who wasn't ultimately prosecuted but did lose his property as a result.

John Elliott was arrested in 2009. The charges against him were dropped after California's Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that state or local governments could not legally impose any limits on the amount of medical marijuana users grow or possess.

Previous limits, the court found, amounted to illegal tampering by the Legislature with Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.

After this decision, Elliot promptly petitioned for the return of his property. But by then the plants had shriveled and died, and most of the processed pot had been destroyed, according to court documents.

Elliott then sued the city, seeking action for conversion, or the wrongful interference with his right of ownership.

In October visiting Judge Leonard LaCasse decided that officers couldn't be held responsible for tending pot plants post-seizure.

"In fact it could be reasonably argued that to impose a duty on the police to water and feed the marijuana while they held it there in custody would be to anticipate its eventual return to the owner and would subject the tending officers to prosecution for ... cultivation of marijuana and/or place them in jeopardy of federal prosecution, since it goes without citation to authority that marijuana is illegal under federal law," LaCasse wrote in his decision.

On Nov. 6 marijuana was legalized by voters in two U.S. states, while, as LaCasse pointed out, it remains a potentially felonious substance in these United States.

In September Montana resident Chris Williams was sentenced to 80 years in federal prison for growing medical marijuana in keeping with that state's laws.

Reach Emily Jo Cureton at ecureton@triplicate.com .

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The Del Norte Triplicate
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Sunday December 4, 2016

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