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State of California v. Peter Keyes (2010, Lodi)

posted Jan 30, 2013, 7:59 PM by The Editor   [ updated Feb 8, 2013, 2:50 AM ]
Activist Peter Keyes reports on his success reclaiming his medical marijuana and glass pipes after an unlawful bust of his personal stash by the Lodi Police Department.

Keyes Pot Returned by Police

by Peter Gabriel Keyes  
Tuesday, 20 April 2010

"Mr. Keyes has a doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana that predates the citation. So in the interest of justice the people move to dismiss this case," prosecutor Keith McIntosh uttered quickly.

"Case dismissed,” replied Judge Bob McNatt.  “The law is clear in this area.  Mr. Keyes is entitled to the return of his property.  I will be signing the return property order."

The citation in question occurred on March 6th, 2010, as I was collecting signatures for the Jack Herer Cannabis Hemp Initiative.  I had my table set up in front of the Target in Lodi, California.

Lodi is a small, humble farming town just north of Stockton and south of Sacramento.  It is perhaps best known for the Credence Clearwater Revival song “Lodi,” which features the refrain “Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again.” I have had some of my most successful signature gathering days working in front of Walmart in Lodi, where I have generally been able to circulate petitions without a problem.  But on this particular day, I had decided to try Target, which is located right across the street from Walmart on Kettleman Drive, in Lodi.  The Walmart location is in the shade, while Target's front area gets full sun exposure.  I had just endured a winter of working outdoors in harsh, cold weather, so I wanted to get some sun that day.  Plus, I wanted to try working in front of Target, a company that has a reputation for taking a harsh stance against solicitors.

A policeman walked up to me as I was gathering signatures.  "What's going on?”  he asked.

“Circulating some state petitions,” I replied.

“Have you been smoking marijuana here today? Hold out your hand like this,”  requested Officer Butterfield, holding his hand out flat, in demonstration.

“What's that about?” I asked, incredulous.

“I'm going to smell your finger,” the policeman said.

“I have a doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana.”  I shot back.

“You have to have a card issued in this county,” said Butterfield.  “That's the law.  Do I have permission to search your vehicle?”  he asked.

“No, you do not,”  I insisted.

“Fine.  I'm going to search your vehicle anyway,”  replied Officer Butterfield.

Breaking into my car, Officer Butterfield easily found my pot and 2 small pipes.  He brought some buds in a medicine bottle to me.  “What's this?” he demanded.

“Silent,” was my reply.

“I'm writing you a ticket for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana,” advised the officer.  He handed me a citation, which I gladly signed.

“Don't try to fight this,” warned Officer Butterfield, “because that's a losing battle.”

My pot and pipes were gone, and the contents of my car were randomly scattered throughout the interior of the vehicle. But the police were on their way, and I continued to circulate my petitions at that location.

It turned out that Target had called the police to complain about cannabis consumption inside a car in their parking lot.  The police made it clear that Target had not complained of my petition circulating per se. Rather, they were specifically complaining about pot smoking.

I returned to the same location the next day, and collected signatures all day in front of Target.  One again the police were called.  This time, they did not charge me with a crime.  They simply advised me that they might arrest me if Target continues to complain about my presence.

I promptly presented my doctor's recommendation to the prosecutor in charge of my case, and I also began preparing a motion to get my property back from the police.  My case was dismissed on Good Friday, April 2nd, and the judge readily granted my motion.

On Easter Monday, April 5th, with court order in hand, I picked up my medical marijuana and pipes from the Lodi Police evidence room.  The police were courteous and friendly while handling the return.  I strongly advise medical marijuana patients in similar situations to file for a return of their property, utilizing a motion template available on the Americans for Safe Access website.

Originally published April 20, 2010 by Peter Keyes at (now defunct).