Pubdate: Tue, 04 Jun 2013
Source: Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, AZ)
Copyright: 2013 Arizona Daily Star
Author: Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star


Marijuana cardholder says deputies forced him to destroy them

A 56-year-old man wants Pima County to give him $75,000 after forcing
him to destroy the medical marijuana plants he was growing in his
garage last December.

An attorney representing James Merkle has filed a notice of claim with
Pima County, asking for damages after Pima County sheriff's deputies
forced him to uproot 12 small marijuana plants after responding to a
report of a domestic disturbance at the home.

Merkle was issued a medical marijuana card by the state to treat
osteoarthritis in his knee.

His attorney, Paul Gattone, said deputies found the plants locked
inside the garage while performing a routine search of Merkle's home.

Gattone said the deputies misunderstood the state's guidelines for
handling medical marijuana when they forced his client to destroy them.

Under Arizona law, medical marijuana cardholders can grow up to 12
plants indoors so long as they are in an enclosed, locked facility.
This is defined as "a closet, room, greenhouse or other enclosed area
equipped with locks or other security devices that permit access only
by a cardholder."

The only keys to the garage, Gattone said, were in his client's

The deputy, he alleges, cited the laws from growing marijuana outdoors
instead of indoors.

"He was greatly mistaken," he said.

Merkle was not arrested nor was he charged with any crime after a
search of the home.

A spokesperson for County Attorney Barbara LaWall had no immediate

A letter of claim is a precursor to a formal lawsuit against the

In January, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled a Border Patrol officer
improperly seized marijuana last year from a California woman who had
a legal prescription for medical marijuana.

The court ruled the woman was entitled to get her marijuana back.
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