A medical marijuana caregiver’s home was raided by Larimer County sheriff’s officers and he was charged with a variety of felony drug crimes, including marijuana cultivation, possession with intent to sell or distribute under 5 pounds of marijuana and possession of more than 12 ounces of the drug. In a November 2011 trial, the man was acquitted on all charges.

Officers confiscated marijuana plants, raw marijuana and his cultivation equipment in the raid. The suspect showed the officers documentation that his plants and growing operations were legal as he was growing them for medical marijuana patients. After his acquittal on all of the charges, some of the man’s property was returned, but not the marijuana plants or the raw marijuana.

The caregiver sued the county for the value of his missing property. His suit claims that under the amendment to the Colorado Constitution legalizing medical marijuana, the sheriff’s department was obligated to return his plants while the criminal case against him was pending. At the very least they had the obligation to maintain and preserve his property so it could be returned to him in tact should there be an acquittal.

The man is seeking damages of a little over $200,000 for the more than 40 plants that were seized by the sheriff’s department in September of 2010. The plants were either destroyed or left to die, according to the lawsuit. Recently, Larimer County Commissioners authorized the county attorney’s office to defend one of the sheriff’s named in the suit as well as the sheriff’s department in the case.

Commissioners also authorized the county to pay any damages should a judgment be made in favor of the plaintiff. One Larimer County Sheriff told the county commissioners that there could be legal complications in returning the man’s confiscated marijuana as doing so could be construed as drug distribution, which is illegal under federal law. An interesting quandary to be sure; perhaps just paying the plaintiff for his destroyed property is the safer option?

The case is pending in the 8th Judicial District Court.

Source: Coloradoan.com, “County to Defend Sheriff in Destroyed Pot Lawsuit,” Patrick Malone, Jan. 15, 2013