Articles Tagged with marijuana

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blur-cannabis-close-up-606506-300x200Ten years ago, the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team (OPNET) raided Steven Fager’s property in Discovery Bay, Washington. They found 10 pounds of processed marijuana and 275 marijuana plants. Steven and his brother, Timothy, were charged with possession of drugs with the intent to deliver. They were also charged with defrauding the Jefferson County Public Utility District by diverting power for their own uses.

At the same time as they filed criminal charges, law enforcement attempted to use civil asset forfeiture to take Steven’s property. Civil asset forfeiture is a legal procedure where law enforcement can take an individual’s property if it is suspected of being involved in a crime. In most states, it is not necessary for the property owner to be convicted of a crime—or even charged with one. Additionally, in Washington state, it is the owners who bear the onus of demonstrating the innocence of their property to be able to get it back.
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In January, FBI agents seized $77,010 in cash from a couple traveling from Dallas to California. The man and woman say they intended to use the money to buy bitcoins. The FBI, however, believes it is drug money and has begun civil asset forfeiture proceedings to permanently acquire the cash.

The man and woman, who have not been named, checked their bags into their flight at Dallas Love Field. A Southwest Airlines employee noticed that the two bags—a duffel bag and a backpack—had the “pungent and distinctive” aroma of marijuana. The employee also noted that there were “wads of USD spilling out of the backpack.” A police dog then confirmed the presence of drugs on both the duffel bag and backpack.
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On February 18, 2016, armed police raided the business and home of Maricel and Paul Fullerton in Woodland, California. In what looked like a major drug bust, police seized 22 pounds of processed cannabis, firearms, and $55,000 in cash. The only thing that seemed odd was that Maricel works as a hospice nurse, while Paul is a retired fire captain.

For two and a half years, the Fullertons fought to clear their names and repossess their property and cash. This month, the Fullertons finally won their civil asset forfeiture case which sought the return of the money.
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On July 27, 2016, Ryan Chappell was driving his father’s Jeep back home on the west side of Detroit, Michigan. On his way, he stopped off at a medical marijuana dispensary. “I had just got off work,” said Ryan, “and stopped at the store sharing the parking lot with the dispensary. Then I stopped in the dispensary. Went in and walked right back out. I asked them a quick question.”

Police pulled Ryan over after he left the parking lot. They seized the 1996 Grand Cherokee Ryan had been driving. “They didn’t even search me. They didn’t give me a reason why they were towing my car,” said Ryan. Frustrated by events, Ryan asked an officer how he would be able to go to work without the vehicle. The police response was “figure it out.”
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Police officers in Rohnert Park, Sonoma County, California have seized more than $2.4 million in cash over the past three years. This haul from civil asset forfeiture seizures is far greater than that of any other agency in the county.

In 2016, officers brought in $1.4 million, which was 25 times what the Santa Rosa police department seized. For comparison, Santa Rosa is the largest city in Sonoma County and as a police force two-and-a-half times larger than Rohnert Park.

Many of the property seizures occurred in a rural area more than 40 miles north of Rohnert Park. This area, a remote stretch along Highway 101 far outside of Rohnert Park city limits, was targeted by police in operations to find illegal drugs. Activities in this area were led by Brendon Jacy Tatum.
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