Senate Committee Votes To Let Police Destroy Medical Marijuana

Feb 12, 2013

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted this week to let police destroy marijuana they have seized, even if it was taken wrongly from a medical marijuana patient. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer reports.

The issue arose when the Border Patrol took some hashish from a California woman and turned it over to the Yuma County Sheriff's Department. It turned out she had a medical marijuana card and could not be prosecuted. But the department balked when she asked for her drugs back, noting marijuana remains illegal under federal law. She sued, convincing the Court of Appeals she is right.

Kim MacEachern who represents prosecutors said that sets a bad precedent. "There would also be situations where, and I think there was one last week, where the city of Tempe police department did a raid and took plants, " MacEachern said. "Are we supposed to water the plants and keep the plants viable in case we have to return them to the person at the end of the case?"

But Angeli Abraham of the American Civil Liberties Union said voting to let police destroy drugs is courting a lawsuit. She said the state constitution bars legislators from tinkering with voter-approved laws like the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. And Abraham brushed aside concerns about keeping plants alive saying, "it would seem that that property should be returned in such a fashion because of how the AMMA spells out what the registered qualified patient is entitled to in terms of how property is dealt with, that it shouldn't take so long that they would need to worry about watering or feeding or however those plants were taken care of."

The vote sends the bill to the full Senate.