A man jurors acquitted of multiple marijuana felonies has sued the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office after his 42 plants were destroyed, according to a lawsuit recently filed in 8th Judicial District Court.
Denver lawyer Rob Corry said his client expects to receive $5,000 per plant (totaling $210,000), based on what law enforcers have testified a marijuana plant is worth, in addition to attorney fees.
Kaleb Young, 34, had been growing the plants in a Wellington home in compliance with Colorado’s medical marijuana laws and during a warrant search in September 2010 had shown deputies paperwork authorizing him to do so, according to the lawsuit.
Young was arrested, and his plants, raw marijuana and equipment were among items taken during the search. An investigation, including surveillance, had been under way for five months after deputies followed up on a tip, according to filings in the criminal court case.
The case went to trial, and Young was acquitted of all charges in November 2011.
“Typically, the agency will preserve the plants as they’re required to do under the (Colorado) Constitution,” Corry said. “Here, they just straight-up cut them down and destroyed them.”
Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith declined comment Friday because he had not seen the lawsuit, a sheriff’s spokesman said in an email. Smith has previously said it would be a violation of federal law for his agency to dispense marijuana to the public.
Fort Collins Police Services, in at least one instance of a marijuana grower claiming medical status, has taken samples and photos of plants, leaving them at the scene where the warrant was served. Corry said this is ordinary in Colorado.
“What commonly happens is they’ll just leave the plants right where they find them,” he said.
Corry, who represents people in marijuana cases across the state, said this is likely the first time in Colorado that a medical-marijuana grower was acquitted at trial and sued because plants and marijuana weren’t returned.
“You hear a lot about these cases being threatened,” he said. “But to my knowledge, none have gone the distance yet.”
Young had been charged with cultivation of marijuana, possession with intent to manufacture or distribute less than 5 pounds of marijuana, and possession of more than 12 ounces of marijuana, according to the lawsuit.
After the acquittal, the sheriff’s office returned some of the property, but none of the plants or marijuana.
“Throughout December 2011, Mr. Young repeatedly attempted to enforce, through counsel, the District Court order that required the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office to return property previously seized from his residence, including 42 medical marijuana plants,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit cites language from the Colorado Constitution indicating marijuana and paraphernalia seized by “state or local law enforcement officials from a patient or primary caregiver in connection with the claimed medical use of marijuana” must be returned on acquittal.
Young has no other criminal record more serious than a traffic violation, according to Colorado court records.
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