Marijuana

Mistaking Hibiscus for Marijuana, DEA Raids Gardener's Home

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David Eickhoff

Last month I noted that a visit to an indoor gardening store plus wet tea leaves in your trash can earn you an early-morning visit by rifle-wielding agents of the state. In addition to drinking tea, a fondness for hibiscus (perhaps to put in your tea) can make you look like a felon to cops with too much time on their hands, as Angela Kirking discovered last fall. Four DEA agents and five local police officers burst into Kirking's Sherwood, Illinois, home around 5 a.m. on October 11, looking for a marijuana grow. Instead they found 9.3 grams of pot (less than a third of an ounce) and three glass pipes. Kirking, a 46-year-old face painter, recently asked a judge to throw out the evidence obtained during the search and the two misdemeanor charges resulting from it, arguing that police did not have probable cause for a warrant.

Why did the DEA think Kirking was growing pot? On September 17, The Huffington Post reports, Donn Kaminski, a Braidwood, Illinois, police officer assigned to the DEA, was staking out Midwest Hydroganics in Crest Hill when he observed Kirking "exit the front door of the store carrying a green plastic bag containing unknown items." Kirking says it was liquid fertilizer for her hibiscus plants. Based on her apparent interest in gardening, Kaminski obtained Kirking's electric bills, which were "consistently higher" than the bills of two neighbors. He also sifted through her garbage, finding "multiple green plant stems" that allegedly smelled like "green cannabis." A field test (perhaps the same kind that misidentified Addie Harte's tea leaves as marijuana) supposedly confirmed that the stems came from a cannabis plant. Presto: probable cause. Or so a judge thought.

Another judge may decide differently. During a hearing earlier this month, Patch reports, Will County Judge Bennett Braun seemed unimpressed by Kaminski's electric-bill analysis, saying "ComEd routinely notifies him that his electric bills are higher than average." The DEA's formula for probable cause in this case mixed two completely innocent facts—a fertilizer purchase and relatively high electric bill—with an agent's odor report and a field test, both of which are notoriously unreliable and both of which proved inaccurate with respect to Kirking. The DEA spent nearly a month investigating Kirking, but somehow it could not spare the time for a lab test on her plant stems before charging into her house.

Beyond the lack of diligence in this particular case is the standard outrage of pot prohibition, which leads employees of our government to spy on the customers of hydroponic supply stores and rummage through their trash, looking for traces of arbitrarily proscribed plants. Grown men should be embarrassed that they do not have better things to do with their time.

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  1. [Kaminski] also sifted through her garbage, finding “multiple green plant stems” that allegedly smelled like “green cannabis.”

    So when you’re bullet-pointing this on a resume, do you put it under ‘Skills’ or ‘Experience’?

    1. I like to counsel my clients to highlight this in “Areas of Expertise”

    2. Why would he be filling out a resume? He seems to have the dream job! Sifting through garbage looking for signs of marijuana.

      1. Right now he’s a small-town cop digging in small-time garbage. But if a full-time gig opens up at the DEA, he could be rooting through the refuse of dealers, suppliers, even big time cartel enforcer trash. He needs to show federal hiring managers that he’s the best there is at what he does. And what he does is dive head first into the things that other people throw away.

  2. Grown men should be embarrassed that they do not have better things to do with their time.

    Oh, I dunno, seems to be a lot of money it in.

  3. In a just world, there would be a bounty on these cretins.

    1. When I rise to poser, they will get the punishment they deserve!

      The Boats!

      1. WTF is wrong with me today! It’s like I am channeling John!

        1. Didn’t Nietzsche write about “The Will To Poser”?

      2. Tarran…..you already achieved “poser” level! Well done!

      3. You’re already the biggest poser here, dude. Just like your mom.

      4. Is poser one level above out and out fraud? Or, two?

    2. On civilians? Oh, there IS!

      Oh! You mean….um….never mind. Move along! Nothing to see here!

  4. “Grown men should be embarrassed that they do not have better things to do with their time.”

    Sums up my opinion of prohibition and the drug war.

    1. Sums up my opinion of professional sports.

    2. Grown men checking peoples pee I think is maximum derp.

      1. I detect a whiff of Super Sugar Crisp, with just a touch of asparagus.

        *Spits into spit bucket

  5. …Will County Judge Bennett Braun seemed unimpressed by Kaminski’s electric-bill analysis, saying “ComEd routinely notifies him that his electric bills are higher than average.”

    I suppose the best you can hope for is the judge informed by personal anecdote sways in your direction instead of armed agents’.

  6. Judges need to be held responsible in some way for the warrants they sign off on. If they give a warrant to a bunch of yahoos who cant get an address right or hose down a residential area with machine gun fire this is partially the fault of the judge who put his Jonh Hancock on that warrant.

    1. Cops and judges both. For example, the cop that recently got a search warrant for a car he pulled over by claiming to smell raw cannabis. No cannabis was found. Therefore, the cop should be charged with perjury. Judge signs off on a warrant that is on the wrong house? He can’t authorize criminal search warrants for three months.

      1. Cops and judges don’t like responsibility, dude. And since they’re the ones enforcing the rules, they get to give themselves a pass. Isn’t a monopoly on force and justice nice?

        1. Isn’t a monopoly on force and justice nice?

          Not really. But unfortunately it is unavoidable. Unless you can explain to me how to maintain a state of anarchy without people screwing it up by engaging in organized violence, and using organized violence to maintain a monopoly on force and justice.

          1. You mean exactly like they do now? I love how “anarchy”-haters list all the reasons why “anarchy” won’t work, yet can’t explain how and why it would be pretty fucking similar to what we have now, just without the bullshit pretension that it’s something else.

              1. The idea is that you can be an anarchist without believing that an anarchic society can exist as most people imagine it. I think some call it “philosophical anarchism”.
                Yes, it is probably inevitable that something you would call “government” or “monopoly on force” will come about in any anarchic situation. But that doesn’t mean that governments and laws are anything special beyond some group of people with the power to make other people do stuff.
                While a lot of libertarians don’t want to be called anarchists and get all pissy about it, I think that many share this philosophical orientation.

                1. The idea is that you can be an anarchist without believing that an anarchic society can exist as most people imagine it. I think some call it “philosophical anarchism”.

                  Call it whatever you want. It won’t help you in court.

                  1. True. But neither will any of the less extreme applications of libertarian principle that everyone goes on about.

            1. the fundamental problem and misunderstanding is the a government is NOT a monopoly on force, it’s a monopoly on JUDGEMENT. In fact with bounty hunter and security guard laws, governments are far from a monopoly on force and there are plenty of other people charged with the right to mete out force according to the government’s laws. It’s just the ultimate JUDGEMENT that the government has a monopoly on.

              This matters because the issue isn’t that one big dick in the room is better simply because it’s just one, the argument is that ultimately bands of people will disagree on what was right and wrong and who needs to be punished, and by the nature of crime/punishement /enforcement will try to violently impose their view. This leads to tons of bands fighting.

              Each little group having that ultimate power (on judgement, and enforcing it) means that they’re each corrupted absolutely to some extent, they each try to scew their “view” in their favor. But even outside of that, between cultures and groups and regions, people just honestly view things differently or won’t be able to come to a decision on certain issues. Surely everyone is ambivlent about SOMETHING. It all sounds benign, but in the context of politics, where contracts (and other regulations of commerce) need to be enforced, and crimes punished, the consequences are dire.

        2. Personalized authority and socialized responsibility is a hell of a gig if you can get it. There will be no downside for these clowns until the responsibility and the power converge.

      2. the cop should be charged with perjury

        Either that or the perceived odor of cannabis shouldn’t be probable cause for a search. I think the latter would be preferable.

        1. Nah, there’s no reason to go easy on cops.
          Hit them with both. Make sure odor isn’t a probable cause, but any cop who claims to have smelled it should be charged with perjury if nothing is found.

      3. He can’t authorize criminal search warrants for three months.

        Wuss. I say 3 month’s salary forfeited to affected party. At least this way the judges and police will be too busy signing warrants to each other’s houses that the plebes will be left alone.

    2. Expecting punishment is probably asking too much, but can’t we at least get some metrics? I mean, I would love to see numbers like how often items suspected to be at the searched property end up found. (For example, in this case, they clearly alleged that they would find pot plants being grown, based on their evidence. So when they did not find that, it should have been a strike against them in the metrics.)

      Well, yeah, I guess it is too much to ask for metrics…

  7. OT: Seeing as how a kidney goes for $262,000 on the black market, I’d sell one of mine on the white market, albeit probably for slightly less, in a heartbeat. The “No” responses on this linked thread reek of all things hysterical.
    http://www.debate.org/opinions…..s-be-legal

  8. Obviously she totally deserved it because she had a coupla dime bags in her house.

    1. Tthis will be the attitude of a truly depressing number of people.

    2. Tulpa approves this comment.

  9. You’d really better watch out if you are growing any Cleome which has leaves that sort of look like canabis and actually does smell like pot a bit. The part that smells isn’t a controlled substance and is present in a lot of plants.

    1. The part that smells isn’t a controlled substance and is present in a lot of plants.

      So those plants are posers. Just like tarran…

  10. I wonder why the DEA hasn’t visited me… I have everything I need to grow marijuana except for marijuana seeds.

    Maybe if I tried growing carrots hydroponically, they’d visit me. 😀

    1. Hops!

      Hops grown hydroponically ought to get the DEA out.

      It’s in the Cannabis family but not cannabis.

      I should note I have no marijuana in my possession nor have ever tried marijuana. I’m just curious what would trigger a non-marijuana to get a visit from the DEA.

      1. I’m just curious what would trigger a non-marijuana to get a visit from the DEA.

        “See something, say something”. The woman in the story was seen leaving a gardening store. This is not the first story we’ve had this month about cops staking out retail outlets such as nurseries or hardware stores.

        This is why I buy most of my gardening supplies online.

    2. *** knock WHAM!! ***

      *** flips “Intent to Grow” warrant at Jason ***

      /You Know Who

      1. It’d be a no knock raid. I have a subscription to Reason and a membership to the NRA.

        Yet no guns?

  11. allegedly smelled like “green cannabis.”

    Every cop and judge should be tested for this ability immediately. Fail, or refuse to take the test, and you are fired.

    Sniff wisely.

  12. The DEA needs to be shut down.

  13. There’s all the proof we need that we have too any police

    We’d all be better off if the police focused on crimes that have actual victims.

    Does anyone honestly believe that wasting $20 Billion and arresting 3/4 Million Americans annually for choosing a substance Scientifically proven to be safer than what the govt allows, is a sound policy?

    1. Why are lying that marijuana is safe?

      150+ Scientific Studies Showing the Dangers of Marijuana

      http://www.populartechnology.n…..ngers.html

  14. I have a high respect for the DEA, at least they are trying to stop teenagers from damaging their brains. Unlike all the addicts who want to get high.

    150+ Scientific Studies Showing the Dangers of Marijuana

    http://www.populartechnology.n…..ngers.html

    1. How did you damage YOUR brain?
      Auto-Erotic asphyxiation perhaps?

  15. I remember reading a story where a cop started knocking down a guy’s Okra plants, because they look similar.

  16. Kinda weird.

    The leaves and buds of some varieties of northern hibiscus look amazingly like marijuana. It gets looks.

    Once it flowers though, it’s pretty obvious–the flowers are the size of dinner plates

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