Colorado Medical Marijuana Users Got the Full SWAT Treatment Because of Their Legal Plants


It's legal medicine under state law — and it's on the potential full-legalization track for 2012  — but Colorado has had some issues with federal raids of their medical marijuana dispensaries in the last few years especially. However, a raid on the home of legal two medical marijuana users has made the residents fighting-mad. Chuck Ball says police used excessive force on him and his roommate on February 10. According to KRDO News Channel 13:

"They acted like they were coming for a big terrorist," said Ball…. "They came in here, drug me across the kitchen floor and handcuffed me," said. "They kept telling me to shut up." 

The raid required "at least 13" SWAT officers (which you can see on the home's surveillance video here). Once there they allegedly handcuffed Ball and his roommates, including fellow medical marijuana patient Lynda Glandorf (who doesn't seem to have arrived until later). Residents say police broke some items in the house, singed one of the dog's fur with a flash-bang grenade and scorched the floor, and kept Ball and a neighbor handcuffed for 25 or so minutes. Ball also says they "ripped off [his] shirt" and generally screamed at him as he tried to explain that he was disabled and that he and Glandorf had permission to grow their plants. 

And after that, no arrests were made or charges were filed, because the patients were not growing more than Colorado state law permitted after all. Supposedly a handgun was found,  but Glandorf denies this.

In this video, Ball and Glandorf describe the raid in their own words. It's a long one, though. One of the key parts is around 15 minutes in where they show off what they describe as the top of the flash-bang grenade, as well as another twisted chunk of metal from the weapon.

Further details from KRDO reveal that when the police came to the home previously (at around 10 p.m. on Christmas 2011), Ball and Glandorf showed their medical marijuana cards, but refused to let officers in because they didn't have a warrant. This, says Colorado Springs police spokesperson Barbara Miller, is kind of dubious:

"If you have nothing to hide, most people would open the door and say, 'Yes, please come in and and let's dispel any information you have because it's false." 

Miller, however, told Reason that she understood that the reaction to a so-called "knock and talk" on Christmas was understandable, and she might have done the same thing. And also that she "really appreciate[s] everybody's constitution rights" and "everybody should use them." However, according to KRDO:

Miller said officers smelled a very strong presence of marijuana in the home, and continued their investigation. Miller said police found out that someone living in the house had a prior felony weapons charge, and also noted that the electric bill was very high for the property."That's really important when you're talking narcotics because that's a tell-tale sign that they're doing a grow there," said Miller. Miller said that SWAT officers did knock on the door and gave enough time for someone to answer before going in [during the February 10 raid]."If you look at the video, it does look like maybe it's a large police presence," said Miller. "But if you put yourself in a police officer's shoes, they've been to many of these where you never know how it's going to play out, if weapons are involved, if someone's going to use it."

Colorado Springs Indyblog tells the story of the raid from the viewpoint of the other roommate, Glandorf. After the Christmas would-be search that Glandorf and Ball declined to accept:

Glandorf says she heard nothing further from the police until Feb. 10, when she found herself pulled over by a detective who had been following her for some way. The officer told her the department's Tactical Enforcement Unit was minutes away from raiding her household, partially based on another tip (that came from someone with a personal ax to grind, according to Glandorf). And he wanted to ask a few questions about its contents.

Ball and Glandorf say that "shrapnel" from the flash-bang hurt their dog. Miller is quoted as saying that's not possible because flash-bangs don't produce shrapnel. (She stressed to Reason that she didn't have the technical knowledge to talk further, and she wasn't there, however. She also said that she didn't want to describe the unnamed roommate's previous weapons charge as "a violation." So things are a bit vague at the moment, but Miller's official statement, including on the weapons allegation, can be found here.)

Regardless of all the details, flash-bangs are explosive and dangerous (and occasionally deadly) to human beings, so it doesn't seem impossible that something-which-is-not-technically-shrapnel but was caused by the weapon injured the dog. At 26 minutes into the video above, Ball demonstrates what he says is the welt that the grenade gave his dog. Another one supposedly had a chunk of something impeded under its skin and fur which caused swelling.

In other ill-advised Colorado Springs police actions, a 2009 SWAT raid lead to an October 2011 lawsuit by a 71-year-old woman who suffered a heart attack after police used a flash-bang while she was bed-ridden. So maybe using them on two dogs and a man who has multiple screws in his back is indeed overkill, especially when nobody here seems to have even violated state law. 

Mostly Jacob Sullum on Colorado's troubles with the feds on medical marijuana law. And Radley Balko on the dangers of flash-bang grenades.