A Pullman landlord notified police about a grow lamp in a closet, and police got a search warrant for a drug raid.
Eight officers with guns drawn surprised three roommates in the apartment last weekend and discovered they were growing tomatoes.
More, from the Daily Evergreen, the Washington State student newspaper:
Just three hours earlier, two people, who Barry said were there on behalf of the landlord, were reviewing the apartment when they noticed a growth lamp in a hall closet.
Pullman Police met the two citizens when they went to the police station soon after leaving the apartment to report a suspected growth.
The two people also mentioned to the officer that the roommates appeared nervous while they were in the apartment, and said it smelled like burnt marijuana.
Roommate Jacin Davis, a senior business administration major, said he was sitting on the couch watching television and did not understand how he could have come across as nervous nor how they would have smelled marijuana.
Much to their surprise, when the police came to the apartment with guns drawn, they found tomato plants growing in Barry's closet.
"They went straight to the closet and saw tomatoes," Barry said. "They regrouped for a second and then searched the rest of the apartment visually." Barry said the officers found nothing and even threatened to bring dogs back to search the apartment further.
"They must have felt stupid by then," he said.
So a growth lamp (which can be used to grow just about anything indoors), "appearing nervous," and a secondhand claim of smelling burnt marijuana is enough for the police to storm into your house with their guns drawn.
I feel like a broken record on this stuff. But this isn't the first time people have had their homes raided over misidentified plants. Hell, it's not even the first time it's happened with tomatoes. I've also found several home invasion raids after a citizen or police officer mistook hibiscus plants for marijuana. There was the time that police in Bel Aire, Kansas raided the home of the town's former mayor after mistaking a sunflower plant for marijuana (the sunflower is also the state flower of Kansas). In 2002, police in Travis County, Texas brought a helicopter to raid the home of Sandra Smith, during which they awoke her and her roommates to the sight of guns pointed at their heads. The marijuana they were after turned out to be ragweed. And there's Ed and Jan Carden, an Orlando couple raided when police mistook elderberry bushes for marijuana.
Then there is the long history of people wrongly raided for the crime of merely owning plant growing equipment or, even worse, merely shopping at stores that sell plant growing equipment that could be used to grow marijuana (of, for that matter, just about anything else). Here's just one example. Here's another.
These military-ish attacks on small-time marijuana offenders, and the mistaken raids that go with them, have been going on for 20 years.
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.