A federal lawsuit accuses the city of Keizer and several of its police officers of violating the rights of a medical marijuana patient.
Anthony Wyatt Beasley filed the suit in U.S. District Court on Friday, Sept. 11, seeking unspecified financial relief. His attorney, Brian Michaels of Eugene, accused the city of Keizer and numerous police officers of violating Beasley's First and Fourth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Other claims include "unlawful search and seizure, excessive force; false arrest; false imprisonment; trespass; intentional infliction of emotional distress; invasion of privacy, false light; (and) assault and battery."
The case stems from when Beasley was arrested in 2007 for manufacturing a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school. A Marion County grand jury subsequently opted not to indict Beasley.
Beasley lived in a home adjacent to the McNary High School campus, and had been growing marijuana there. Beasley, 30, was a patient and grower under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.
Authorities had responded to the house on Oct. 17, 2007, after a former roommate reporting seeing "what she thought were two ‘pipe bombs'" inside the home. Keizer Police brought in the Salem Police Bomb Squad, which determined the PVC pipes were being used to derive hashish from the marijuana.
Police obtained a search warrant for the house two days later, and arrested Beasley that same day for manufacturing a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school.
The suit states that Beasley called Keizer Police on Oct. 12, 2007, complaining of theft of his medical marijuana. The lawsuit alleges police "declined to assist … (and) told Mr. Beasley that they could not help him."
The lawsuit also alleges the two people Beasley suspected of stealing the marijuana came into the house again on Oct. 17, "broke in illegally (and) called the police to report two ‘pipe bombs.'"
The subsequent search warrant issued by a Marion County judge, the lawsuit read, "operated under the false assertion hashish in any quantity is a felony."
It also alleges Beasley spent five days in jail despite "severe flu symptoms" and was told by a Keizer police officer that "people like you will be the downfall for the medicinal marijuana program" and that "he screwed up because he only knew 99% of the law, but that one percent was going to screw him."
The lawsuit also alleges the officer references hash cases in California, saying "he thought he had found a way to arrest Beasley in order to have some serious charges stick."
In the lawsuit, the attorney alleges that disclosure of Beasley's home address and "private facts resulted in forcing him (to) hide away, becoming a recluse." It goes on to state Beasley has had trouble finding another place to live, has experienced emotional stress, a significant weight gain and night terrors.
The lawsuit accuses the plaintiffs of false arrest and illegal search and seizure, subsequently violating his Fourth Amendment rights, which protect against unreasonable search and seizure. The lawsuit states that the city "encouraged the false arrest and prosecution of persons who were lawfully exercising their rights under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program by failing to properly train and educate their police on the laws applicable."
Other claims include trespassing and violation of Beasley's rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Michaels said the First Amendment claim stemmed from an attempt to target a medical marijuana patient.
"If a particular county decided that every African-American with a medical marijuana card in their county is going to be prosecuted federally, we all know that's illegal" Michaels said. "We don't even have to think about it, even though it's a federal crime to possess and grow marijuana. But if you single people out for that reason it's technically considered selective enforcement in the criminal area.
"… In part the reason they pursued this individual in this area was because he was exercising his rights under the law because he was a medical marijuana card holder," Michaels said.
In the lawsuit, the defendants are also accused of intentional infliction of emotional distress, whereby they "intended to place Plaintiff in a state of imminent fear and severe and extreme emotional distress, and they succeeded in doing so." The suit adds that Beasley subsequently sought mental health counseling.
The suit also accuses the plaintiffs of spreading false information to local media outlets, which caused him loss of housing when his landlord evicted him.
Hash oil is made from the marijuana plant, using a solvent such as butane, isopropyl alcohol or others to extract active ingredients in a more concentrated form.
For anyone who doesn't hold an Oregon Medical Marijuana Program card, hash oil is explicitly illegal under Oregon law, as is marijuana.
But organizations such as the Oregon chapter of the National Organization for Reforming Marijuana Laws and the THC Foundation say hash oil fits within what medical marijuana patients are allow to have under Oregon law.
The Oregon Revised Statutes define "usable marijuana" – that is, what substances qualify as medicinal marijuana – as "the dried leaves and flowers of the plant Cannabis family Moraceae, and any mixture or preparation thereof, that are appropriate for medical use."
The Oregon Administrative Rules – a set of legally-binding rules that further govern the medical marijuana program – are even more explicit, declaring proper "the resin extracted from (the marijuana plant); and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of the plant or its resin."
When the Keizertimes covered the story in 2007, Keizer Police Capt. Jeff Kuhns said the department believed the intent of a portion of the law addressing "mixtures or preparations" of medical marijuana doesn't extend to hash oil.
"The intent behind that language is for things such as brownies, butters and stuff like that – putting it in your pizza, different recipes, different things you can make with the dried leaves," Kuhns said. "When they drafted this law, if they meant to address hashish or hash oil they would seemingly have addressed how much you can possess."
Michaels disagreed, saying that resin derived from the plant would logically include hashish or hash oil.
"Why these people went hog wild over hash is anybody's guess," Michaels said. "Given that it exists nowhere in the statute … why would they expect it to be in the statute that makes it legal?"
Michaels said that there is a stigma in some quarters of law enforcement, prosecution and the judicial system against medical marijuana.
"My basic feeling is that the source of most of these blunders is not conspiracy but incompetence, and I think that might be what we have here," Michaels said.
City Attorney Shannon Johnson declined comment, saying he had not yet been served with the suit.
Individual officers named in the suit include Captain Jeff Kuhns, former Captain John Teague, Det. Tim Lathrop, Det. Rodney Bamford, former Sgt. Jeff Isham, Lt. John Troncoso, Sgts. Greg Barber and Jeff Goodman, and Officers Scott Keniston, Darcy Olafson, Scott Bigler and Carrie Meier.
Teague and Isham have since left the department to take positions with other agencies.
Documents used in this story were obtained via Courthouse News Service, which reported the story on Thursday.
By JASON COX
September 17, 2009