Apparently growing vegetables in your basement in Leawood, Kansas is reason enough for the local police to raid your house, hold you and your family at gunpoint and accuse your 13-year-old son of using marijuana. At least, that’s the message sent after Johnson County Sheriff deputies blew in the door of the Harte family home last year looking for marijuana.
The raid – conducted on 4/20 last year – is now the subject of a lawsuit by the family of former CIA employees, who wants to know why they were chosen when the only thing they were cultivating were a few immature squash and some tomato sprouts.
Around 7:30 in the morning last April 20, Robert and Adlynn Harte were startled awake by loud banging and yelling at their door. Her husband opened it to find armed police about to ram it down. They told him to lay down on the ground in his entryway and held him there at gunpoint while they rounded up the rest of the family, including their shocked and frightened 7- and 13-year-old children. The kids were then made to sit down in front of their father.
What they found was a legal hydroponic setup being used to grow perfectly legal plants. “They would have known in the first minute if they would have checked the equipment and seen the tomato plants,” Ceryl Pilate, the family’s attorney, told the Kansas City Star. “This was a hydroponic garden on the level of a school project, with just a few plants and inexpensive lights. It was nothing.”
|A hydroponic vegetable setup.|
Despite the evidence of their fail staring police in the face, the search at the Harte’s went on for two hours. Whether they were doing it to save face, or were just too stupid to realize their error is unclear. According to Robert Harte, they accused his son of using marijuana. They eventually called in a drug dog that was probably looking at its handlers with as much confusion as the Harte’s, because there wasn’t any weed to be found anywhere.
The raid was part of a much larger operation across the county, in which a whopping 43 plants and a pound of pot were found by cops.
Robert says police repeatedly accused him of cultivation and that the Harte’s house had been under surveillance for months. That was surprising to Robert, who says that even though he has a small hydroponic grow setup in the basement that he built with his son to grow some vegetables, he never used any high-wattage grow lights, nor did their electricity bills surge (as is the case with indoor cannabis growers that tip off police based on their energy bill alone).
The Harte’s now suspect that they could have been profiled after visiting a local hydroponic supply store. As any actual marijuana grower can tell you, police in parts of this country will watch to see who is shopping at grow stores that might be using the equipment to cultivate herb. But cannabis growers tend to buy lots of supplies and always pay in cash. The family went to the stores only a few times and always paid on a credit card. They clearly aren’t growers, and judging by reports probably don’t even approve of marijuana use in the first place.
“You can’t send out the SWAT team because people are trying to grow tomatoes in their basement,” Robert Harte told The Star.
If all of what the Harte’s allege true, it’s proof of a massively wasteful and inefficient police force that clearly can’t tell a few squash plants from a marijuana grow producing pounds of sweet, sweet ganja. The family’s attorney said they are suing for “government accountability” and that the family deserves to know why they were being watched in the first place.