420 Magazine Background




Pubdate: Fri, 28 Jul 2000
Source: Times-Standard (CA)
Copyright: 2000 The Times-Standard
Contact: letters@times-standard.com
Address: 930 Sixth St. Eureka, CA 95501
Fax: 707-441-0501

Author: Jacob Lehman, The Times-Standard


Sheriff's deputies seized more than 800 marijuana plants on Monday from a grower on Wilder
Ridge Road in southern Humboldt County who says the plants were "medicine."

Steven Tuck said he was giving away marijuana to about 120 seriously ill people with medical
marijuana recommendations.

And, he says has the paperwork to prove it.

With the help of a prestigious San Francisco law firm, Tuck said he will sue the Humboldt
County Sheriff's Department, all the officers involved in cutting and confiscating the
marijuana, and Sheriff Dennis Lewis allegedly for violating his civil rights and California's
medical marijuana law.

Tuck, who has his own medical marijuana recommendation, said he is dying of spinal cancer
and has nothing to lose.

"They kicked the wrong dog this time," he said.

Sgt. Wayne Hanson, commander of the Sheriff's Drug Enforcement Unit, said deputies first
came to the Wilder Ridge property at about 5 p.m. because of a report of gunfire there.

Sgt. Mike Downey and another deputy from the Garberville Sheriff's Substation walked past
a gate and up a road to the house where Tuck and four others were living, Hanson said.

Tuck said that the two lawmen trespassed on property he is leasing -- without a search
warrant -- after being told to leave by people at the locked gate.

Hanson said the deputies had probable cause to enter the property.

"Sgt. Downey has the right to walk up to a residence and see what's going on, in the interest
of public safety," he said.

When he got to the house, Downey saw marijuana growing in a greenhouse and called the
Drug Enforcement Unit, Hanson said. Downey then detained the people found on the
property, and handcuffed Tuck at one point.

Tuck said that the greenhouse was 100 yards away from where Downey was standing, and
had opaque walls. The deputies knew he was growing marijuana, he said, not because they
saw it but because he had been open about his activities at meetings of a county medical
marijuana committee attended by Lewis and District Attorney Terry Farmer. The two
officials eventually stopped meeting with the committee and do not agree with a proposed
ordinance it drafted for the Board of Supervisors.

Hanson said that sheriff's reports on the incident were confidential.

"You can supoena them if you want," he said.

Tuck and four others were detained for about five hours while DEU deputies obtained a
search warrant, which was signed by Superior Court Judge J. Michael Brown at 9:30 p.m.,
Hanson said. He added that the DEU arrived on the Wilder Ridge property at 9:55 p.m..

On Thursday, Tuck said he had still not seen a copy of the search warrant.

Deputies seized 839 marijuana plants, several guns that included a semi-automatic carbine and
.357 Magnum revolver, a bottle of prescription medication with Tuck's name on it, books
related to marijuana cultivation and the personal records of people who received his medical

Tuck's says California's medical marijuana law -- voter-approved Proposition 215, which is
also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 - -- says that a primary caregiver, who has
assumed responsibility for a medical marijuana patient's health, housing or safety may grow
marijuana for that person.

As interpreted by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department, the patient must live with a
person who is considered their primary caregiver.

"You have to live there," Lewis said. "(Tuck's case) is way outside 215."

For each of the people he was giving marijuana to, Tuck said, he checked with the physician
who issued the recommendation. He also checked the physician's license with the state
medical board. Tuck said he has receipts from patients for each time he gave them

Tuck's operation was somewhat similar to the Humboldt Medical Cannabis Center in Arcata,
where he was a board member for about six months in 1999. The Arcata center was
established in cooperation with Arcata Police Chief Mel Brown.

The center, which serves about 500 patients, brings in marijuana from several licensed
gardens and distributes it to qualified individuals, center President Gregory Allen said.

"All our medicine is 100 percent white market, and we're very proud of that," he said.

Tuck, 33, said he has university degrees in environmental science, botany and horticulture
and was working on breeding several strains of marijuana to treat specific illnesses. The
median age of his clients is 56 years, all are seriously ill, and he never charged any of them a
cent, he added.

The issue of whether Tuck can be the primary caregiver for people he does not live with will
probably be decided in court. Tuck said that supporters who want to remain anonymous at
this time are willing to fund his lawsuit. Tuck has a meeting today to discuss his potential
lawsuit with Laurence Lichter, an attorney in J. Tony Serra's San Francisco firm.

Tuck also expects criminal cultivation charges to be filed against him now that he has talked to
media, he said. He also spoke about his situation on KMUD this week.

Tuck said he will probably also join a class-action suit being prepared by local attorneys
against the sheriff's department. The suit will seek a restraining order against the seizure of
medical marijuana plants unless a jury finds that a person has too many or is outside the lines
of Prop. 215. That potential lawsuit is expected to be filed soon.
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