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Friday, August 10, 2012

Can the Police Return Your Confiscated Pot?

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Fri, Aug 10, 2012 at 12:29 PM

Let's say you're having a terrible day. Let's say you have chronic pain, so you have a medical marijuana card and you're sitting on your sofa eating horchata sorbet and the police knock on your door. They're looking for your roommate, the loser, there's been a report of him threatening the neighbors with a sword. The cops search the house and confiscate not only his sword collection, but the ounce of pot they find in the kitchen, which happens to be yours.

So can you get the weed back? It's legal, right?

Well, last week for an upcoming cover story, photographer Nicolle Clemetson and I toured the place where your pot—and thousands of pounds of other peoples' pot—winds up: The police property and evidence warehouse. This giant building in NW Portland mostly feels like an IKEA warehouse full of stolen goods, but the weed room (accessible only by pressing two keycards to pads on two separate walls simultaneously) feels different. It feels more like a tomb, with burlap sacks full of pot plants hanging ominously from meathooks.

All of this pot will be destroyed. That's right, every ounce of pot that winds up in police hands will be incinerated (and not, ha ha, in the usual way).

Until this winter, if your Oregon-legal weed was confiscated, you could file a request for the return of your property and the police would return it, just like if your bike or shoes or any other property had been confiscated but was no longer needed for a case. But in January, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger's office wrote an opinion (pdf) that the federal Controlled Substances' Act supersedes the state law compelling officers to return property. If an officer does return confiscated weed, Kroger's office determined they could be subject to federal criminal prosecution. So now all the weed is destroyed—one more casualty of the legal mess that results from the conflict between state and federal laws around marijuana.

Check out more about the doomed marijuana and other strange objects from the police evidence room in next week's paper.

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