What to Avoid when Law Enforcement Comes A-Knockin‘By Ann Toney
In the State of Colorado, a patient with a current and valid Department of Public Health and Environment Medical Marijuana Card (“red card”) may possess up to six marijuana plants for his or her own use. Some physicians will write a recommendation for a number of plants over the six-plant count. Let me tell you what has been happening with some regularity based on the numerous telephone inquiries I receive:
The patient gets a knock at the door from law enforcement. The officer states that either a neighbor has complained about marijuana being grown there (or the smell of it), or the officer/neighbors have seen plants in the backyard. Inevitably, the patient lets the officers into the house as the patient wants to show the officers that he or she has a valid “red card” and that any cultivation at the house is legal. You do not have a duty or obligation to let law enforcement into your home unless they have a search warrant. It is important to talk with the officers, but you can do that by talking through the door or going outside through another door to talk with them. Don’t open the front door to talk.
Once the law enforcement officers get inside the house they may say, “We just want to check and make sure you are legal,” etc., and often given permission by the patient. The patient thinks they are being aboveboard and transparent.
Here is the rub: Routinely, officers see the grow, take clippings and pictures and then say there is something illegal about the grow. If it is outside, the officers invariably say that it can be seen from the street and, therefore, is in public view, which is not in compliance with Colorado state law. The officers then take the patient to the police station, and then fingerprint, photograph and release them—now your fingerprints are “in the system” although you may never get charged as the officer may not have a case against you.
Just because law enforcement comes to your door does not mean they really have a legitimate reason to be there. Don’t invite them in. Please know it is your right to wait for the search warrant before you let them in. You may be inviting problems which you have the power—and right—to avoid.
Ann Toney, P.C. is a Denver-based law firm that focuses on medical marijuana business law and marijuana defense; and defending people charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs (DUI/DUID). Ann Toney can be contacted via phone or web at (303) 399-5556 and www.medicalcannabislaw.com.