In the latest sign that Gilbert police have gone rogue, a medical-marijuana patient tells New Times that he was taken to jail two nights ago for possessing a half-ounce of weed.
This is the third case we've heard about in the past week in which Gilbert officers allegedly told patients that the voter-approved medical-marijuana law provides no meaningful protection.
Not only did the officers write up the man for possible possession charge -- he says they're accusing him of DUI because he admitted he'd smoked pot that morning. If true, that seems like one DUI case that'll never stick.
We're putting in a request for the police report today; we also left a message for Gilbert PD's spokesman, Sergeant Bill Balafas -- and yet another message for Police Chief Tim Dorn -- this morning.
On Sunday about midnight, Steven, who lives in Gilbert, tells us that he was pulled over near Val Vista and Baseline roads for failing to make a complete stop as he left a strip-mall lot. Steven, 22, asked us to just use his first name.
The bloodhound cop smelled the high-quality weed in the car and asked him about it. Steven 'fessed up right away, he says, and showed the officer his state-issued medical- marijuana-registration card.
Steven says he had about half an ounce of weed in four separate, labeled baggies.
"For a second, I thought I was going to be able to drive away," Steven says.
Instead, the officer called his supervisor, who soon arrived at the scene. They interrogated him about where he purchased the marijuana, saying if he couldn't provide the name and number of the person who sold it, he was going to be arrested.
He says the officers also told him that the pot wouldn't be legal unless he bought it in a dispensary, (there are none yet) or grew it himself. As to the latter option, however, Steven says the officers implied that even if he'd admitted to growing, he could still be in trouble because there's no legal way to obtain seeds.
Steven says he told the cops that the pot was given to him by a friend as a gift.
In our non-expert, non-lawyerly opinion, Arizona law seems clear when it states that if a valid card-holder possesses less than 2.5 ounces, a presumption exists of medical use.
Police booked Steven into jail and impounded his truck, but they didn't bother with his bong and pipe, which were still in the vehicle when he picked it up the next day.
"I paid $300 for that *@#&^$% card," Steven gripes.
Again, we still don't have the police side of this story and can't yet verify what Steven told us. But the bulk of the story makes sense in view of the other busts by Gilbert PD mentioned on this blog in the last few days.
On Thursday, we told you about the ludicrous case in which a full-on raid with masked and SWAT-trained officers entered a Gilbert home in search of -- gasp -- an ounce of weed. When the homeowner, Ross Taylor, presented his valid registration card, Gilbert police didn't seem to care. The East Valley Tribune published an article about the case on Friday with a couple of extra details.
This morning, we related another story in which Gilbert police drove across town to Tempe and raided a business in which qualified patients sell pot to other qualified patients.
Perhaps police are institutionalized and simply can't help busting marijuana suspects, despite the new law. It'll be interesting to see how prosecutors deal with these cases.
It's clear, though, that the tactics of Gilbert police aren't being used in other Valley cities.
Scottsdale's police spokesman, Sergeant Mark Clark, told us last week that if someone's caught with less than 2.5 ounces of weed and possesses a valid card, "the investigation stops there."
Sergeant Steve Martos of the Phoenix Police Department told us this morning that, "at worst," Phoenix officers might take a report if they find a cardholder in possession.
"If you're within the legal amount of whatever, you're good to go," he says. "There's no reason for us to do anything."
Booking a valid cardholder caught with less than 2.5 ounces "would be in direct violation of the law."
Yup, that's what we think, too. Gilbert PD apparently didn't get the memo.
That being said, we're still researching the situation and hope to talk to legal experts at the police departments over the next few days.
If you know any valid cardholders who were caught and busted, or caught and not busted, please drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE: Gilbert PD's spokesman, Bill Balafas, called back later and told us that the DUI was the "primary investigation" and the reason for the arrest in the case of Steven.
Reading from the report, we requested a copy of, Balafas tells us that the officers thought Steven might still be in the "euphoric" stage of a marijuana high judging by his "bloodshot, watery eyes" and other potential indicators of pot usage.
When asked when he last smoked, Steven first answered that it had been the day before, then changed his story, stating that it had been in the morning, Balafas says.
The spokesman, who's also trained in drug-recognition enforcement, claims that marijuana impairs drivers up to 24 hours after they use it.
Balafas says police also intend to seek a charge of marijuana possession on Steven, whose registration card was indeed valid. Steven told police he got the pot from a friend and wouldn't give up the source.
"So the question comes about -- how did he obtain this stuff?" Balafas asks rhetorically.
Yet Gilbert police won't say why that matters.
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Gilbert Police Chief Tim Dorn refuses to answer questions about this or the other recent busts related to medical marijuana.