Pubdate: Sun, 30 Apr 2000
Source: Eau Claire Leader-Telegram (WI)
Section: Crossroads
Author: Chuck Rupnow, Leader/Telegram staff reporter, ABUSE? POLICE RAID VEXES USER OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA

It's about 1:30 in the morning, and the telephone rings.

First thought: Answer the phone.

Second thought: I hope it's not a wrong number.

Third thought: Answer the phone.

Sure enough, It was for me. At least it wasn't a telemarketer.

It was Tammy Rickert, A former Mondovi resident now living in Middleton. 
Her speech and concern were at a fever pitch. I was still trying to 
determine which end of the receiver I was speaking into.

I've had numerous other conversations with Tammy, most back in the 
early-to-mid-1990's when I did several stories about her mother. Jacki 
Rickert, who still lives in Mondovi. Tammy was her mother's main caregiver 
for many years.

Jacki, 49, suffers from two rare illnesses that cause great pain and 
severely restrict her movement. She was one of 43 people approved 
nationwide for a federal testing program in which people received 
government-grown, freeze-dried marijuana for medical purposes.

Rickert was approved in December 1990, but the program ended in 1991 before 
28 of the 43 started receiving the marijuana. Rickert was one of those 28.

The program ended because of the overwhelming number of applications 
received by people with AIDS. Since then the Rickerts has crusaded from 
Madison to Washington, D.C., for people to receive the medical marijuana 
they believe they are entitled to.

Anyway, here's Tammy, talking on the phone about police raiding her 
mother's meager home and refusing to leave despite not having a search warrant.

I realize there is some kind of conference call situation going, with Tammy 
listening to events at her mothers house, other people giving them advice, 
and me beginning to wonder if I'm eavesdropping and should maybe just go 
back to bed.

I explained there was little I could do. I didn't expect police to arrest 
Jacki, particularly because the local and county law enforcement officials 
were aware of her medical situation involving marijuana use.

Well, as it turns out, police were at Rickert's residence from 11:45 PM on 
March 13 until 11:30 AM the next day. They executed a search warrant and 
confiscated numerous items from various rooms.

When Police Chief Terry Pittman said two of four items tested positive for 
THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Buffalo Count District Attorney James Duvall examined the police reports, 
test results and wisely decided not to file criminal charges.

"Due to the facts of the case, we will not be filing a complaint," Duvall 
told me. ("She does have a prescription, which she believes allows her to 
possess it for medical reasons, but it is no longer valid.

"But this is not to say that marijuana possession is condoned or supported 
because we will vigorously prosecute it", Duvall said. " There just happens 
to be some very unique facts in this case."

Jacki Rickert actually contacted police to speak with an officer about an 
unrelated matter. The conversation led to talk about marijuana use in the 
home, and it escalated from there, according to police reports.

Rickert, who weighs about 90 pounds and uses a wheelchair, says she and an 
acquaintance were smoking Indian spirit tobacco, not marijuana, in regard 
to the police investigation.

"The whole thing got insane," Rickert said about the incident. "As it went 
on, I was most worried about my 15-year-old dog that was having problems 
during all this.

"I was upset that one young officer wouldn't leave when I asked him to. I 
invoked my Fourth Amendment right, and he didn't know what that meant," 
Rickert said, referring to laws governing search and seizure. "He agreed to 
leave and lock the door behind him, and then all of a sudden he walks back 
in and said he has to stay because my house is a crime scene".

Police painstakingly went through the house and yard. Rickert was upset 
police took a number of items, "that have nothing to do with this. I just 
want them back.

"The police were very nice about it and very apologetic, even helping me 
move from one room to another at times." Rickert said. "But I feel very 
violated, especially when there's this guy going through my underwear drawer."

"Certainly there are unique circumstances with this case." Pittman said. 
"The timing could have been better, but when someone admits to an officer 
that marijuana is likely present in the house, the officers are obligated 
to follow up on that."

He's right.

In Rickert's case, the marijuana curbs some of her pain and allows her to 
keep food and medication down. She uses minimal amounts for personal, 
medical reasons.

In this case, extenuating circumstances brought police and Jacki Rickert 
together, and the result was a long, bothersome search that befuddled a 
frail, gravely ill woman.

"I understand what the police did. I didn't like it, but I understand," 
Rickert said.

"The district attorney made a very very wise choice in dropping this," 
Rickert said. "He made sense out of the senseless." I know how she feels 
when something bizarre goes on in the middle of the night.

Chuck Rupnow a Leader/Telegram staff reporter, can be reached at (715) 
830-5831, 800-236-7077 or [Article accompanied by staff file photo taken by Steve Kinderman in 1997 
at time of Wisconsin Journey For Justice of Jacki holding a drawing she 
made for the Journey and wearing a t-shirt saying "I am not a criminal. " 
Photo caption: "Jacki Rickert has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and reflexive 
sympathetic dystrophy. She is a vocal advocate for medical marijuana."]
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