Posted 5:44 PM 11/9/2012 : City could face $300,000 lawsuit over seized marijuana
COLORADO SPRINGS - The battle over marijuana continues to burn between a local cancer patient and the Colorado Springs Police Department. After several last minute legal filings, the Colorado Court of Appeals stopped the return of seized marijuana this afternoon to Bob Crouse pending the outcome of an appeal filed by the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office.
Crouse had fought for and received a court order that required the marijuana be returned by today.
The district attorney's office filed their appeal Thursday, and Crouse's attorney Clifton Black requested an emergency hearing with District Court Judge Timothy Schutz today. Judge Schutz upheld the order in that hearing.
Crouse is a leukemia patient who was found not guilty in June on two felony charges of drug trafficking. He hired Mr. Black in September to seek the court order after the police department refused to give him the 6 pounds of marijuana and 55 plants they are holding in evidence from his trial.
The language of Amendment 20, Colorado's medical marijuana amendment, specifically says any drug or associated paraphernalia should be returned to its owner upon an acquittal. It also states that law enforcement officers are immune from prosecution for doing so.
Nevertheless, the police and district attorney feel their officers would be violating the federal Controlled Substances Act by giving the drugs back.
"This should already be resolved, we shouldn't be spending money on this," Crouse said. "They refuse to accept that the Colorado Constitution is our law and we should be representing that."
Mr. Black, his attorney, estimated that legal fight the city and the district attorney are putting up is costing taxpayers at least $50,000.
"It's time to stop this nonsense, return this medication to this man and let's put this issue to bed," Black said.
Deputy District Attorneys Doyle Baker and Jeff Lindsey both turned down requests for comment following Judge Schutz ruling. Calls made to the DA's office following the stay of the court order by the appellate court were not immediately returned.
During the lower court hearing it was established that Mr. Crouse's marijuana could be valued as high as $307,500. In addressing the order, Judge Schutz applied a legal test from another local case Romero vs. the City of Fountain, which considers whether the public would be irreparably harmed by the court order.
The attorneys noted that there would be a realistic possibility that the City of Colorado Springs would face a lawsuit for damaging Crouse's marijuana.
Storing live marijuana plants creates an increased risk of toxic mold. To mitigate the health hazard posed to its officers, the current CSPD evidence policy requires all seized marijuana plants to be cut at the stem, dried and store in sealed evidence bags.
Black argued that the plants and refined marijuana taken from Mr. Crouse had likely deteriorated and will continue to deteriorate while in police custody.