WENDELL, Mass. (WWLP) – Two people in Wendell had their medical marijuana plants destroyed and they don’t understand why.
Patti Scutari of Wendell said a Massachusetts State Police helicopter circled over her garden around 3 o clock on September 13th. She said five officers with machetes and saws came down from the helicopter and cut the plants down and took them away.
The officers said the plants were in plain view, which gives them the right to seize the plants. Scutari said they told her that District Attorney David Sullivan had sent them, but the D.A. has denied having any involvement.
Scutari and her partner thought they were following the law. “We felt we were complying, we had them in cages in the yard out of view, no passerby. We are across the street from the Wendell Police Department. We just felt totally violated by our own government.”
She said the State Police have claimed responsibly for carrying out this operation, which was funded by a $60,000 DEA grant.
Below is a statement on the medical marijuana helicopter raid in Wendell from Dave Procopio, Director of Media Communications of the State Police:
We are sympathetic to people who use medical marijuana responsibly, or whose loved ones do so, to ease pain caused by illness or disease. We of course support people’s right to use medical marijuana legally to improve their quality of life. But the law that prohibits unsecured, outdoor grows makes no distinction about the reasons or circumstances behind the grow. We have no discretion to leave the plants – once we have seen them we have to seize them. The discretion we have is in whether to seek criminal charges, and in most cases we do not do so.
We undertake the Domestic Cannabis Eradication and Suppression Program with Massachusetts National Guard Counter Drug Team members every year, usually in the reasonable growing season for this region, which is generally early July to late September. We conduct operations across the state, and have done so this year, from the islands to western Mass and numerous places in between. The operation utilizes a spotter from the MA National Guard Counter Drug Program in the helicopter. The pilots fly within federal guidelines for altitude. Probable cause to search the property is usually established by the trained spotter.
The troopers on the ground team identify themselves to property owners if they are home, and advise growers that we are taking plants that are in violation of either state law for marijuana manufacturing/possession or, for those who have Massachusetts medical marijuana cards, if they are in violation of the statute for growing and possessing the plants. According to state regulations, citizens given medical marijuana cards are advised that they cannot grow the plant outside of a locked, enclosed location that is fully inaccessible to any other person. No one entering a cardholder’s home or property should know they are growing marijuana.
Many, indeed most, times, people growing for personal use are not criminally charged. The decision not to file charges is where we can exercise discretion. We do not have discretion as to confiscation of the plants. They are illegal if grown as described above and have to seized.
The program is funded by a $60,000 annual grant from the Department of Justice that can be used solely for the purposes of marijuana eradication. The funding covers all State Police costs for the program, which is basically OT salary costs for the troopers in the narcotics unit who participate in the operation on several dates throughout the growing season.