Marijuana: Elisa Kappelmann acquittal ends another wasteful pot prosecution, attorney says
Last month, attorney Rob Corry estimated that prosecutors had wasted $100,000 in its failed pot prosecution of Josh Jones -- a case he felt should have never been taken to trial.
He sees similar prosecutorial wrongheadedness in the case of another client, Colorado Springs' Elisa Kappelmann, a licensed marijuana grower who's also been acquitted of pot possession and distribution charges. Why? He elaborates below.
"The whole thing started with flyovers from Homeland Security," Corry says. "The City of Colorado Springs' vice narcotics unit requested that this $7 million surveillance plane be flown down from the Canadian border so it could monitor the heat signatures of various warehouses in Colorado Springs."
Gear on the craft soon "identified the Beacon Street warehouse," Corry continues, "which included six separate suites of growers, none affiliated with each other."
A Pilatus PC-12 Spectre of the sort used for surveillance operations in Colorado Springs.
Not that such a plane was necessary to inform authorities about the warehouse. "The strange thing is, the police knew a burglary had occurred and been reported at one of the suites," Corry notes. "It was the burglary of marijuana plants, and the police came and investigated -- so they saw the plants. But even with that knowledge, they still had to do a flyover, using a thermal-heat signature to determine if there were plants in there.
"That seemed like an extreme waste of taxpayer dollars, and the jury did care about that," Corry maintains. "Taxpayers who fund this stuff want to hear about it, and knowing about the waste did inform their decision."
After seeing infra-red images from the Homeland Security plane, law enforcers on the ground ran power records for the warehouse, discovering elevated usage. That was enough to justify search warrants for each of the suites and what Corry describes as "a full-blown SWAT team raid" on May 12, 2010. "They broke in the doors with a battering ram -- the whole drill we've seen in other cases. And then they started to prosecute these people," including Kappelmann. But she didn't simply roll over.
"Elisa had ample paperwork to justify the plant count she had," Corry goes on. "Even with six plants per patient, she and her boyfriend were well under the approved plant count." Kappelman had 22 patients total, and law enforcement counted 99 plants, a total Corry disputed because 22 of them were unrooted clones. However, Corry says, "even 99 was well under the amount they were allowed to have -- and one patient had a fifty-plant recommendation. We didn't even have to focus on that."
Problem is, the officer who working the case "was operating under the belief that the dispensary model was illegal until July 1, 2010," when HB 1284, the bill that set regulations for the medical marijuana industry in Colorado, went into effect six weeks or so after the raid. "But that was false. In fact, the opposite was true: If you were a business after that date, you were required to have been in operation before then -- so he had it precisely backward."
If that was true, why was the case prosecuted?
Page down to continue reading about the Elisa Kappelmann acquittal.