Pubdate: Thu, 07 Apr 2016
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald (Hilo, HI)
Copyright: 2016 Hawaii Tribune Herald
Author: John Burnett


The county settled a lawsuit with a Puna man who claims police 
illegally confiscated the medical marijuana growing on his Fern Acres 
property almost four years ago.

The settlement with Brad Snow and three others was for a total of 
$4,800. Snow filed suit in May 2014, claiming his property was 
improperly raided during a marijuana eradication sweep June 14, 2012, 
even though the plaintiffs had medical marijuana cards and were in 
compliance with the law.

"The value of six months of marijuana growing in your backyard; they 
take it, and they don't give you anything for it," Snow said Tuesday. 
"They don't arrest you. They don't charge you. They just come and 
take your stuff. I did not have too many plants. I did not have too 
much marijuana."

The civil suit requested the return of 28 confiscated plants or 
compensation of $5,000 per plant, for a total of $120,000. Snow said 
Tuesday he accepted the settlement because he was feeling "outgunned, 
out-financed and outmanned" by the county's resources.

"I feel that if I had continued the case, I would've ended in appeals 
court at great expense that my other plaintiffs didn't need to 
experience," he said. "And we could've been liable for legal fees if 
we'd been dismissed in appeals court, and we could have been liable 
for court costs."

Snow said law enforcement still buzzes his property with low-flying 
helicopters even though he continues to be in compliance with the 
medical marijuana law.

"On March 15, they came in and swooped down on my property, at low 
level, and harassed me again," he said. "They're supposed to contact 
the (medical marijuana) database beforehand, but they don't do that. 
They come with a SWAT team and helicopters and they're wearing body 
armor. Are they getting shot out there? I know why they're wearing 
body armor. Because the guy in the helicopter has an automatic 
weapon, and they don't want to get hit with friendly fire."

Snow, who has a caregiver permit to grow for another individual in 
addition to himself, said changes to the state's medical marijuana 
laws to open marijuana dispensaries will take away his ability to be 
a caregiver in 2018. He called it "a step backward" in medical 
marijuana policy.

"In 2018, I will not be able to care-give for even one person," he 
said. "Why is it, all of a sudden, after all these years of medical 
marijuana in Hawaii, they suddenly pop out of the woodwork and come 
up with all these new rules and regs, when they didn't even follow 
the last ones? What they're doing is making more rules and 
regulations to make it more difficult for patients to have safe 
access to medical marijuana. They're denying the intent of the law. 
Not only that, they are making it difficult to keep up with all this 
paperwork. And it's giving them a reason to violate your Fourth 
Amendment rights (constitutional protection against illegal search 
and seizure). You do not have a right to come to my house as a police 
officer without a (search) warrant signed by a judge. Period."

Laureen Martin, the litigation chief in the county's Office of 
Corporation Counsel, confirmed the settlement amount and said, "It's 
a relatively small amount, given the cost to litigate (the case)."

"They all had medical marijuana cards, so I believe the (settlement) 
was calculated by the amount of marijuana they are allowed to keep 
and multiplying that by the value, and anticipating the costs to 
litigate it, to travel, the depositions, and there would actually 
have been some witnesses from off-island," she said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom