|Photo: Jenn Miller|
The City of Seal Beach, California has paid a medical marijuana patient $32,500 to settle a lawsuit resulting from what he called the unlawful confiscation of 50 marijuana plants.
Bruce Benedict, 45, sued the Seal Beach Police Department for $1 million in August 2008, alleging violations of civil and safety codes, false imprisonment, battery and trespass, reports Jaimee Lynn Fletcher at The Orange County Register.
“I’m happy that I won,” Benedict said. “I’m happy that they got slapped in the face.”
“It’s not about the money,” he said. “These [cops]are bad for society.”
|Photo: Paralegal SLO|
Seal Beach Police officers Mike Henderson and David Barr entered Benedict’s apartment in February 2008 after he called to complain about illegal construction in the building, and took photos of his cannabis plants, the lawsuit says.
Benedict says he provided the policemen with proper documentation to show he was a legal caregiver and patient. When the officers took the evidence to the district attorney’s office, the prosecutor wasn’t interested in the case.
But the evidence was turned over to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The federal government doesn’t officially recognize the medical (or any other) use of marijuana.
The officers returned to Benedict’s apartment in June with DEA agents, the apartment was searched and he was arrested, court records show.
Benedict said police also forced him to become an informant and to “orchestrate drug deals” in the area.
In their response to Benedict’s suit, the Seal Beach police officers claimed that he offered to become an informant to avoid federal charges and was never a medical marijuana caregiver. The police also claimed that Benedict was an informant for the DEA, not the police department.
Benedict, who said the case should never have been turned over to the DEA, said the officers’ claims are proven wrong by their willingness to settle.
”They cut the check,” Benedict said. “They knew they were out of line. They wronged me something fierce.”
Benedict’s lawyer, Jeff Schwartz, said the case is a wake-up call to cities that try to circumvent California’s legalization of medical marijuana by enforcing federal law when they don’t have the authority to do so.
“My hope is they just get over themselves and what they wish the law was, and enforce the law,” Schwartz said. “They are officers sworn to uphold the law in California and I don’t think it’s appropriate… to go out and intentionally interfere with people’s rights under the medical marijuana program.”
“These cities have to get tired of paying out this money,” Schwartz said.
Seal Beach City Manager David Carmany admitted the city paid $32,500 to settle the suit.
Attorney Glen Tucker claimed the case was settled for “economic reasons” and the officers were “not liable.” I dunno…. thirty-two grand sounds pretty “liable” to me!
Tucker claimed he couldn’t comment on the suit because of his contract with the city.
Benedict, a medical marijuana patient and caregiver, is allowed to grow and distribute cannabis under California law. He got a doctor’s recommendation for medicinal pot six years ago; he suffers from Hepatitis C and has had kidney failure twice.