ASA Advocates Take Possession of Marijuana Plants from San Diego County Sheriff
By: Marcus Boyd and Eugene Davidovich, San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and her â€˜fierce fightâ€™ against medical marijuana patients suffered another devastating defeat this week. Advocates from the local chapter of Americans for Safe Access (SDASA), the nationâ€™s largest advocacy group promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research, successfully obtained an order from the courts for the release of five large impounded medical cannabis plants. The judge ordered the plants released to a representative of SDASA for their safe keeping.
Marcus Boyd of SDASA retrieved the plants from San Diego County Sheriffâ€™s evidence locker.
The patient, to who the plants belong, remains in custody for cultivating them despite all the charges in his case being dropped, and will receive his plants upon release.
On September 2, John Palmer, a resident of Imperial Beach was arrested by Detective Michael Thomas Neumann and other members of the San Diego Sheriffâ€™s Department during a â€˜routineâ€™ probation search. Following the search and the discovery of the plants, Palmer was charged with possession, possession for sale, and cultivation of marijuana.
At the time of the search, Palmer was in full compliance with state law, in fact, deputies found Palmerâ€™s state issued Medical Marijuana Identification Card as well as another patientâ€™s doctorâ€™s recommendation posted on the wall next to the grow.
During the search, Palmer explained to deputies that he was lawfully and collectively growing the medicine, as approved by the Probation Department. He explained that three weeks earlier he was granted a court order from a judge specifically allowing him to grow marijuana while on probation.
Detective Neumann, unaware of the law, called the infamous local medical marijuana eradicator and â€˜expertâ€™ cultivator, Detective Steve Reed, to find out if Palmer could be charged with cultivation and possession for sale.Â Detective Reed said, â€œmedical pot? Ha! Book-em and charge-em!â€
Deputies arrested Palmer, impounded the plants, and incarcerated him in Vista jail where he remains today. He is scheduled to be released on Monday, October 25, 2010.
The other patient who was collectively cultivating the plants with Palmer was not arrested himself. After learning of Palmerâ€™s arrest, he was able to quickly make contact with Marcus Boyd of SDASA in search of assistance.
Boyd, who hosts the monthly South Bay meeting for SDASA in Imperial Beach, immediately contacted Salina Epley, Palmerâ€™s public defender in the case. He began providing assistance with the case as well as attending Palmerâ€™s court hearings along with SDASA Advisory Board Member Terrie Best.
During the court process, the prosecutor was insistent upon keeping Palmer in custody, despite being told by the judge that Palmer would likely be found not guilty if the case went to trial. The judge urged that a plea bargain be worked out.
All plea offers from the prosecutor were unreasonable and therefore unacceptable to Palmer. A plea deal was not reached and a trial date was set for November 10th.
On October 6th, Palmer was back in court for an evidentiary / readiness hearing. That day, after reviewing the motions filed by the public defender, the prosecutor moved to drop all marijuana related charges against Mr. Palmer.
At a prior hearing however, the judge ruled that the prosecutor had provided sufficient evidence that violated Palmerâ€™s probation status remanding him into custody for another 20 days.
In light of the extended jail time, the public defender conferred with her client and while officially on the record, recognized Americans for Safe Accessâ€™s support in the case and formally requested the court, â€œimmediately release the five mature plants to Americans for Safe Accessâ€™s representative, Marcus Boyd, for safe keeping.â€
Surprisingly, the prosecutor did not argue, stipulated to the request, and the court did not hesitate in granting the motion.
John Palmer left the courtroom in good spirits and was very happy to have won his case. He yelled â€œthank youâ€ while deputies escorted him out of court.
With the court order in hand, Marcus Boyd and Eugene Davidovich of SDASA, went to the San Diego County Sheriffâ€™s evidence room and picked up the plants with no delay or resistance from Detective Neumann or any other law enforcement officials.
In fact when Boyd called Detective Neumann and asked him to fax over a release of property form to the evidence locker, Neumann replied â€œI donâ€™t have a problem with it and I wonâ€™t stand in the way.Â Iâ€™ll send them whatever they need this morning.â€
When Boyd and Davidovich arrived to retrieve the property, it was found that all the plants had been clipped at the stem right above the roots.Â Detective Neuman, instead of transporting them and taking care of the property as required by procedure, simply cut them and stuffed them in a large paper bag, ensuring that they could not be usable when and if they were ever retrieved.
The plants were immediately rushed to Kim Twolan, the founder of Mother Earth Co-op located in Mission Hills. Twolan, ( SDASA Advisory Board member and member of San Diego Cityâ€™s Medical Marijuana Task Force) after thorough examination and several attempts to revive the plants, pronounced them dead upon arrival.
Palmer intends to file a claim for the damaged property upon being released from custody on Monday.
SDASA member and local criminal defense attorney Melissa Bobrow has agreed to help Palmer with the property damage claim against the county.