Littlefield V. County of Humboldt: Validity of Prescription Medical Marijuana at Discretion of Police Officers (Prop. 215, CA Health and Safety Code 11362.5)

In a landmark decision, a First Appellate District Court has upheld the original decision in Littlefield v. County of Humboldt, in which 5 family members with prescriptions for medical marijuana (see Prop 215; CA Health and Safety Code § 11362.5) had their crops destroyed by members of CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) and the Humboldt County Sherriff’s Department.  The Littlefields maintain that such a search and seizure and loss of property was unconstitutional and illegal – the appellate court says differently.

Key to the issues in this case is whether or not an officer of the law has the right to determine for him or herself whether or not the plants that an individual citizen is growing are legal or illegal.  In the case of the Littlefields, each of the 5 members of that family had legal prescriptions and had posted these recommendations on their property in plain sight in the garden.  One local law enforcement agent, listed in the complaint as Deputy Fulton, determined along with his compatriot Sergeant Wayne Hanson (who was radioed) that the plants were illegal.  The police took some samples and then destroyed the rest of the almost 6,000 square feet of healthy, growing plants.

The real importance of this case is not only that it reinforces the ability of law enforcement representatives to use their own, perhaps misinformed, discretion when it comes to seizure and destruction of citizens’ property, but also that having a medical marijuana recommendation can’t protect you from such violations.  And if the police are wrong?  Don’t expect to be compensated for their mistake any more than the Littlefields have been, which is not at all.