The War On Gardening
“Adlynn and Robert Harte, two former CIA employees living in Kansas, opened their door on April 20, 2012, to find a team of sheriff’s deputies armed with assault weapons and bulletproof vests with a warrant to search their house for marijuana. The Hartes and their two children were detained and held at gunpoint while law enforcement raided their house. They found three tomato plants, one melon plant and two butternut squash plants growing in a basement hydroponic gardening setup built by Harte and his 13-year-old son, whom officers reportedly accused of being a pothead.
In November 2013, the Hartes filed a lawsuit against county officials, including the sheriff, alleging the only intelligence that could have led to the raid was a trip by Harte and his son to a gardening store and his wife’s “brewing of loose tea leaves that they discarded in the trash.” The lawsuit, seeking $7 million in damages, claims deputies failed to do a proper investigation to follow up on whether the family was actually growing marijuana.
The Hartes aren’t alone in questioning whether such police techniques don’t risk effectively criminalizing gardening. A few states over in Illinois, Angela Kirking, a face-paint artist, was also caught up in part of the same multi-state garden store operation last year. Three weeks after being observed by an officer leaving a local shop with a “green plastic bag containing unknown items,” Drug Enforcement Administration agents, guns drawn, raided her house before 5 a.m., eventually turning up enough marijuana for a misdemeanor possession charge.
Kirking claimed she had visited the garden store to buy fertilizer for a hibiscus plant, and sued to have the search warrant thrown out. She argued that an innocent trip to a garden store shouldn’t have served on its own as grounds for an investigation, which included officers rooting through her trash to find a small quantity of marijuana stems and examining her electric bills to conclude they were higher than normal. A county judge later ruled against Kirking.”
Horsemint is Not Marijuana.
In 2010, cops in Corpus Christi, Texas, were similarly duped by an innocuous weed when they uprooted, tagged and transported 400 plants from a city park, believing it was marijuana. The plant was actually horsemint, meaning that taxpayers footed the bill for some glorified yard work that day.
Texas police are not the only ones to have been perplexed by herbs in the past. In 1994, officers in Connecticut mistook oregano, apple mint, catnip and other plants for marijuana after entering a vacant grocery store with a warrant to confiscate weed. They found no drugs.
Fiasco At The Garden of Eden
In August 2013, police in Arlington, Texas, conducted a SWAT raid on the Garden of Eden, a small organic farm that had clashed with its neighbors, who claimed the property wasn’t clean enough.
The Arlington Police Department also reported receiving complaints that marijuana was being grown on the premises, a tip they pursued with aerial surveillance and a visit by an undercover officer that led to an unsubstantiated claim that a resident of the farm was in possession of marijuana. Despite the seemingly flimsy evidence, police then conducted a 10-hour raid, in which employees of the farm were reportedly handcuffed and held at gunpoint for at least 30 minutes. Officers came away with “17 blackberry bushes, 15 okra plants, 14 tomatillo plants … native grasses and sunflowers.” No weed.
The would-be drug bust was itself a total bust, but police officials defended their actions because the militarized crackdown did lead to the correction of code violations, for which the city took the Garden of Eden to court earlier this year.
A Middle School Marijuana Grow Operation?
That’s what police apparently thought they might find when four armed agents, backed up by a helicopter, showed up to the Camino de Paz Montessori School and Farm in Cuarteles, New Mexico, in 2010. After asking to inspect the school’s greenhouse, in which students were growing plants as part of a math and science lesson, officers found tomatoes. The incident led some to question whether these sorts of raids were an appropriate use of funds.
You Say Tomato, They Say Marijuana
In Canada in 2008, armed Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided commercial fisherman Bruce Aleksich’s business, expecting to uncover a large marijuana grow operation. They handcuffed everyone in the place and left them on the ground for more than an hour, Aleksich said. After checking the premises and vehicles for drugs, all the police could find were tomatoes. In a very un-Canadian exit, officers reportedly left without so much as an apology.
Hibiscus doesn’t look much like marijuana, but police confusion led to a scary incident for landscape contractor Blair Davis in 2004. Davis said he was headed to answer a knock at the door when it flew open and an officer pointed a gun at him and told him to get on the ground. Around 10 members of a county task force proceeded to enter his house and question him about the plants in his yard, none of which were marijuana. The officers left after an hour, leaving only a “citizen’s information card.” Davis said the officers could have used additional training in marijuana identification.
Source: by Nick Wing 10.14.14 Huffington Post