Lake County pot patients in court to protest surprise raids


A group of Lake County medical marijuana patients who grow their own pot is seeking a restraining order in federal court in San Francisco seeking to halt what they’re calling “paramilitary-style” pot raids being conducted by the county under its new cultivation ordinance.

The court on Tuesday heard the request but did not make a decision, according to Lake County Counsel Anita Grant.

The plaintiffs of the related lawsuit contend marijuana raids conducted without warrants or warnings over the past several weeks are in violation of their state and federal constitutional rights to protection from unlawful search and seizure and invasion of privacy and to due process.

The legal challenges are the latest round in a long-running battle over Lake County officials’ attempts to regulate marijuana cultivation in one of the state’s top pot-producing counties. The fight includes two competing measures on the November ballot.

The restraining order request and related lawsuit, which was filed Friday, follow an outpouring of complaints from pot growers at a county Board of Supervisors’ meeting two weeks ago.

“The County of Lake has not demonstrated that they intend to let up in their crusade against medical marijuana patients,” said Joe Elford, the San Francisco-based attorney representing the eight plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

While the lawsuit is about medical marijuana patients being unfairly targeted, “it’s more about privacy and property interests that should be protected by the state and federal constitutions,” he said.

The lawsuit specifically challenges the implementation of Lake County’s Measure N, approved by voters in June. The new ordinance allows outdoor cultivation only on parcels larger than an acre with a maximum of 48 plants on agricultural parcels larger than 20 acres. Gardens are forbidden in so-called “growth areas,” which include rural subdivisions.

Measure N also allows code enforcement officers to initiate eradication of plants when rules are violated. In the cases in question, officers were accompanied by deputies and a state wildlife official.

Law enforcement officials said they’re allowed to do warrantless searches and eradications when plants are being grown in open fields. Elford said the so-called “open fields doctrine” does not allow warrantless searches of fenced yards adjacent to homes.

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