Judge Orders Police Return Confiscated Pot To Washington Man
(MintPress) – In an unusual move, Municipal Court Judge Jack Emery from the Pierce County court in Washington State, ordered on Thursday that police return marijuana to a man who had the drug seized from him during a traffic stop last year.
Judge Emery agreed with Joseph L. Robertson’s arguments that police did not have the right to confiscate the less than 40 grams of pot in his possession because he is a designated provider of medical marijuana.
In Washington, a designated provider is someone older than the age of 18 who provides pot to a qualified person that has been prescribed marijuana as a medicine by a medical professional. A designated provider can legally have up to 24 ounces, which is about 680 grams of usable marijuana and up to 15 plants at any given time.
“The law is very simple, and it is very boring,” Robertson’s attorney Jay Berenburg argued in court. “If he is a lawfully appointed designated provider, he’s lawfully in possession of that marijuana. Being lawfully in possession of that marijuana, he cannot be forced to forfeit that, and the state, the government, the city can not seize it.”
Berenburg, who is active in medical marijuana issues, said that the ruling was likely the first of its kind in Pierce County history, as last year two owners of a medical marijuana dispensary who tried to get back pot police had seized from them had their case thrown out of court.
In Washington State medical marijuana is legal and this fall voters opted to expand legalization to include recreational use as well. While legal in the state, marijuana is not recognized as a legal drug by the federal government in any state for any purpose, including medical, which prompts some local police officers to ignore state legalization laws.
Robertson says he was pulled over in May 2012 for speeding, and according to court records, the officer reported he smelled marijuana inside the car. After a search of Robertson’s car, the officer found a small amount of marijuana and cited him for driving without a valid license and a misdemeanor marijuana possession.
In December 2012 city prosecutors dismissed the possession charge since the state had voted to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and Robertson asked if he could have his pot back. The city refused, and that’s how Robertson’s case ended up in court.
“Had this gone to trial it would have been an issue of fact as to whether or not the marijuana Mr. Robertson was possessing on that day was for personal consumption or for (a patient),” said City Prosecutor Charles Lee, who stood by the city’s opposition to give Robertson his weed back.
Lee said the city had no plans to appeal Emery’s decision.
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