Police raid on Gilbert home sparks medical marijuana outcry - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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Police raid on Gilbert home sparks medical marijuana outcry

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Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011 3:58 pm

A couple hours after a DirecTV worker saw marijuana and hashish inside a bedroom closet of Ross Taylor’s Gilbert home during the installation process of a satellite dish, 12 Gilbert police officers wearing masks and toting guns busted into his house and took his pot.

Taylor, 35, is a card-carrying medical marijuana patient under Arizona’s new voter-approved law, who said he uses it for a severe loss of appetite and sleep due to post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

But police said Taylor was not in legal possession of about 2 ounces of pot and a small amount of hashish that officers confiscated with some paraphernalia from his Gilbert home in the 7100 block of South Fawn Avenue on June 9.

Whether legitimate medical marijuana patients will become targets of prosecution involving how they obtained marijuana remains to be seen, as no such cases have reached the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, but Taylor said he believes the satellite worker overstepped his bounds by calling police after he showed him his medical marijuana card.

“The worker saw the marijuana in my closet and I told him, ‘Don’t get weird on me, I’m a medical marijuana patient,’ ” Taylor said. “He proceeded to tell me he was OK with it, and that he voted for it. I feel the police overreacted.”

Arizona voters approved medical marijuana with Proposition 203 in the November general election, and regulations were finalized in April, but police said there still is no legal way marijuana can be obtained as no dispensaries have been opened or licensed to sell it.

Taylor, who also lives in Prescott, was moving into his Gilbert residence at the time he was handcuffed and cited. He told the Tribune on Friday that he received a call from Gilbert police Cmdr. Ken Buckland, who told him on Thursday they were going to try to charge him for possession of a narcotic drug and possession of paraphernalia because he said he bought the marijuana from another person.

Taylor owns Cannabis Patient Screening Centers, a company that refers patients to doctors for medical marijuana purposes.

“People are masking themselves as medical marijuana dispensaries, but no one is licensed to sell it and no dispensaries are open, yet,” said Sgt. Bill Balafas, a Gilbert police spokesman. “Gov. Jan Brewer is waiting on a response from the federal government, because although we’re following state law, selling and distributing marijuana violates federal laws.”

As for the number of officers that responded to Taylor’s home, Balafas said, it’s not unusual to have that many officers respond. “There were five undercover officers and seven from the criminal apprehension team,” he said.

“By law, the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the cards issued to medical marijuana patients, does not release the names of the patients. We don’t know if someone is a medical marijuana patient and possesses a card until we ask them.”

Balafas also told the Tribune on Friday that the satellite worker who reported the possession told investigators that Taylor said he was selling the marijuana, which is illegal.

“That’s not what I said,” Taylor told the Tribune. “I said I got it from someone in Prescott. I freely received it from them.”

Taylor said if he is charged he will fight prosecution with the help of an attorney.

Under provisions in the Medical Marijuana Act, there are three ways a medical marijuana patient can legally obtain the drug: through a dispensary, through a caregiver or from another medical marijuana patient.

Legally, medical marijuana patients can possess up to two and a half ounces of marijuana. Buying it from someone else is illegal, according to the state Health Department.

Three workers for the Phoenix-based company All My Sons Moving and Storage, who were moving items into Taylor house at the time officers executed a search warrant, also were handcuffed.

“A couple of the guys were upstairs and heard someone shout, ‘Gilbert police!’ and they thought somebody was joking,” said Kevin Anderson, a manager for All My Sons. “The workers were detained, police confiscated the pot and then our guys finished their job.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of red tape involved,” Anderson said of the issue.

Meanwhile, the Maricopa County Attorneys Office still is waiting to see if there will be an onslaught of cases involving people who possess marijuana for medical purposes. It isn’t known whether the office will receive Taylor’s case.

“This is all new to us,” said Jerry Cobb, a spokesman in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. “One of the problems we have with the law is that it’s vague, but we have been very careful not to create a road map and create a criteria that would lead to formal charging. So far, no agencies have submitted any cases for formal charging involving marijuana medical card carriers. Either people aren’t being caught, or if they are being caught, agencies aren’t submitting them to us.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com

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