Sheriff Pays Grower $25K For Wrongly Seized Marijuana Plants


Photo: The Liberty Voice

Plants? We Don’t Need No Steenken Plants!

In yet another embarrassing fiasco for the hapless San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department, it is about to buy 43 dead marijuana plants for $25,000.

Rather than go to trial in federal court and fight a civil rights lawsuit brought by Los Osos, California resident Richard Steenken, the county and Sheriff’s Department agreed to settle the case by paying up, reports Colin Rigley at the San Luis Obispo New Times.
The monetary amount is said to be roughly the cash value of the cannabis plants, which were seized in a botched pot raid on Steenken, a medical marijuana patient.

Photo: Kylie Mendonica/SLO New Times
Richard Steenken was held for 21 days after being arrested for growing marijuana in his home before charges were dropped. Now Steenken’s getting $25,000 for his plants.

​”I guess it could have been more,” Steenken said of the settlement. “But it’s a long time coming.”
Steenken, a 45-year-old addiction specialist, was arrested on October 15, 2008, and two days later he was charged with felony cultivation of marijuana and possessing concentrated cannabis, among other chasrges. With his bail set at $40,000, Steenken decided to stay in jail, where he remained until November 3, when the District Attorney’s Office dismissed all charges.
Upon his release, Steenken fought to have his property returned, which eventually happened, after a court order. But by the time he got his stuff back, the 43 plants — which he was allowed to cultivate under state law as an authorized medical marijuana patient — had died.
“Basically they told us, ‘We’re going to enforce federal law,’ ” said Steenken’s attorney, Dana Rosenburg, a specialist in police misconduct cases. “So they’re using state money… to enforce federal law, and that’s unconstitutional.”
Steenken got home during the middle of the raid, and found armed deputies invading his home. Not satisfied with just busting up his place, the cops raided the home of his then-girlfriend, three hours later.
Steenken filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court on November 9, 2009, with 257 claims including emotional distress, battery, false arrest, and violations of his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
“The county is really getting off easy here, because we’re settling only for the value of the marijuana,” Rosenburg said.
San Luis Obispo County supervisors gave authority to settle the case on October 5, according to County Counsel Warren Jensen. Though a verbal agreement was reached to settle the case for $25,000, the paperwork had not been finalized as of Thursday.
Jensen declined to comment on the case because the settlement had not been finalized, but said the county typically doesn’t admit liability in such settlements.
Sheriff’s Department spokesman Rob Bryn also passed the buck, declining to comment and deferring to the county.
Steenken said the settlement doesn’t completely offset all the legal fees, but “it lets people know that what they did was incorrect.”