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Thursday, July 12, 2007

“There’s No Situation So Tragic the Police Can’t Make It Worse”

posted by on July 12 at 14:54 PM

Yesterday, Washington State Patrol troopers found 8-year-old Chandler Osman in the cab of a truck that had just crushed her grandfather to death underneath it. Larry Maurer, 63, was trying to repair the vehicle after it broke down by the side of the highway. How did the troopers console the little girl? By interrogating her, raiding her home, and arresting her parents.

You see, Chandler reportedly admitted that her parents, Bruce and Rainee Osman, grew marijuana – as medicine – in their Kent home. How did the pot topic come up? A routine online search under the parents’ names would have revealed the couple was busted for medical pot in 2005, but no criminal charges were filed because they were authorized by their doctor to cultivate marijuana under Washington’s Medical Use of Marijuana Act. Rather than trust records that the parents were abiding by the law, rather than investigate the case later to make sure the pot paperwork checked out, rather than get a warrant to search the home, and rather than take any humane step for the grieving family, WSP troopers apparently got the terrified girl to incriminate her parents and then they headed directly to the family’s home.

“The officer pushed the door open and he cuffed [my wife]. Then I slowly walked up and put my hands up,” said Bruce Osman. “They handcuffed us and brought us out into the sun.” The couple, who suffers from Hepatitis C and other ailments, was not allowed to re-enter for four hours while officers ransacked their apartment, removed the plants, and seized $2000. Video of the upturned house from KING TV here. And lest we forget, this all happened less than a week after the Seattle Times ran a front-page story glorifying efforts to bust pot growers in King County.

“The killer here is that the officers had to know it was medical marijuana. They knew it was medical the whole time,” said the couple’s defense attorney Douglas Hiatt, working with veteran drug defense attorney Jeff Steinborn, whose comment on the case is the headline of this post. Authorization forms signed by doctors were posted in the marijuana garden. Hiatt contends it was illegal to search the house without a warrant and to seize the plants, and he believes police may have crossed the line by interrogating the girl without notifying her guardians.

So why would Washington State Patrol officers pursue a moderate drug bust that won’t stand up in court, and worsen the grief of an eight-year-old girl and her parents?

Hiatt thinks they did it simply because they could. “The medical marijuana law has no arrest protection and only an affirmative defense,” he says. An affirmative defense only provides relief from prosecution once a defendant goes before a judge, so the WSP officers apparently just wanted to harass the grief-stricken family on a technicality.

The WSP is also notoriously budthirsty. The agency receives a massive annual grant from the DEA to reward informants who turn in marijuana growers. When I called WSP’s marijuana hotline last year, the nice hotline lady told me tippers are motivated by a “revenge factor,” as most of the snitches are ex-girlfriends and ex-wives. The agency offers up to $5000 to each informant.

According to Hiatt, officers allege the Osmans were growing more marijuana than allowed for patients by state law, but Hiatt calls bullshit: “The problem is they didn’t know how many plants they had until after they did the bust.” And Hiatt says the couple was growing within the guidelines set in King County, anyway. “We have a signed agreement with the King County Prosecutors Office that authorized patients in King County may have 36 plants in any stage,” says Hiatt. Osman says he had 30 plants nearing maturity and 25 sprouts; since they were growing for two patients, they were well within the limit for the county.

However, the state law simply says patients may cultivate up to a 60-day supply—whatever that is. In lieu of any specific plant limit, these officers construed the law narrowly. “This is the first real crop I had gotten [since the last bust in 2005], and it was our medicine for next two months,” said Bruce Osman. “Marijuana is the most amazing relief from pain, nausea, vomiting and wasting syndrome,” he said. In addition to Hepatitis C, which leaves them too disabled to maintain employment, his wife also suffers from intractable pain and lacerated ulcers.

Chandler was returned to her parents yesterday, but the family now risks eviction from their Section 8 housing—funded by the federal government, which doesn’t recognize state medical marijuana laws.

The state’s Department of Health was tasked by legislative bill 6032, which passed earlier this year, to set presumptive plant numbers for patients cultivating medical marijuana, but those guidelines won’t be issued until July 2008. Even so, it’s unclear if the highway patrol will comply with the legislature's efforts to protect legitimate patients who need medical marijuana. They seem hell-bent on busting people for pot, by any loophole necessary.

Neither the King County Prosecutors Office nor the Washington State Patrol have returned my calls to comment on the case.

RSS icon Comments


This is why I generally hate cops.

Posted by Mr. Poe | July 12, 2007 3:08 PM

That little girl should be disowned.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | July 12, 2007 3:12 PM

I'm just curious how "my parents grow pot" came out of "who is this crushed man under the car, little girl?"

I saw this on the news yesterday. The couple was in tears and the poor kid feels horrible because she thinks she got her parents busted.

Posted by monkey | July 12, 2007 3:25 PM

This is why I generally hate cops.

Any police officer who takes his job seriously should be furious at these thugs.

Posted by thehim | July 12, 2007 3:30 PM

being a cop is a tough job -- and sometimes good cops make mistakes. i would say that any cop who takes their job seriously is outraged.

but it is just as true that there need be measures to stop bad cops, and to guide good cops into making less mistakes. when mistakes occur, they need to be handled properly.

Posted by infrequent | July 12, 2007 3:36 PM

being a cop is a tough job -- and sometimes good cops make mistakes. i would say that any cop who takes their job seriously is outraged.

but it is just as true that there need be measures to stop bad cops, and to guide good cops into making less mistakes. when mistakes occur, they need to be handled properly.

Posted by infrequent | July 12, 2007 3:36 PM

Good god. A warrantless bust? Interrogation of a child? Illegal seizure of property? That sounds like terrific grounds for a law suit.

Posted by Phelix | July 12, 2007 3:37 PM

Seriously, I don't think these poor folks are going to need to worry too much about where to live - since there's a good chance they'll be able to purchase some very nice property with what they rake in from the settlement with the County for this cock-up.

Posted by COMTE | July 12, 2007 3:49 PM

thehim & infrequent: Show me ONE fucking pig that would be outraged. I'm willing to bet I could go to 1000 cops, troopers, sherriffs, etc anywhere in America and every single one of them would spew out the same old bullshit about how bad weed is and they are trying to protect children, etc.

I guess thehim hit the nail on the head: any cop that takes his job seriously would be outraged. That seems to be the problem, there aren't any that have one ounce of humanity left in them.

Finally, @ infrequent: "mistakes"?!?! you have got to be fucking kidding me. Mistakes. please.

OK, I feel better...

Posted by Mike in MO | July 12, 2007 4:29 PM

I hear they registered her so that she can no longer get a federal student loan when she's 10 years older and able to go to college, too.

That's pretty darned heartless.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 12, 2007 4:31 PM

I agree with Mike @ 9. These guys and gals are doing it because they think they're cowboys. They used to be reigned in by our justice system, but I think the head cowboy has emboldened them to do whatever the fuck they please. I have to believe that they shot a collective load over the Times story and were hopped up to get themselves into the paper too. In a real country, like Canada, somebody would get fired over ridiculous crap like this, but in this country the Times will probably follow-up with more war on drugs propaganda.

Posted by vegetable lasagna | July 12, 2007 4:49 PM

Mike, what about Norm Stamper? I bet he's pretty outraged. I realize he's retired now, but I'm pretty sure there are many active cops who share his mindset.

I hear they registered her so that she can no longer get a federal student loan when she's 10 years older and able to go to college, too.

I hope this is a joke.

Posted by thehim | July 12, 2007 4:50 PM

Here is the answer for all you Pot heads. That is, if you can put the bong down and turn off the tube for a little while.

Don't smoke Pot. It is Illegal, and eventually you will get in troublt.

If you aren't doing illegal things, then you won't get busted.


Posted by ecce homo | July 12, 2007 5:07 PM

@13 - shut the fuck up, you monkey robot

Posted by SteveR | July 12, 2007 5:30 PM

@13 - maybe in your country it is.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 12, 2007 5:32 PM


Pot is Illegal in AMERICA, get a clue.

You may have smoked too much pot to know that it is illegal, but still is.

Posted by ecce homo | July 12, 2007 5:40 PM

@16 - At one time, it was also illegal for blacks to ride in the front of the bus. Do you think they should've just followed the rules too?

Did you know that oral sex is a felony in Virginia?

Posted by SteveR | July 12, 2007 5:53 PM

It would be nice to blame the individual officers for this one, but I'm betting that they did it to cover their asses. WSP surely has a directive in place covering the discovery of "drug operations" just like they have one in place for the discovery of child abuse, kidnapping, etc.

Not defending their actions which are fucking awful. We really need to decriminalize pot in Washington State.

Nitpick: It's the Washington STATE Patrol - no "Highway" in there. No such thing as the WHP.

Posted by Soupytwist | July 12, 2007 6:13 PM

Haven't those cops ever heard of "pretending not to hear"?

Posted by Katelyn | July 12, 2007 6:46 PM

Thanks, Soupytwist @18. Fixed that.

You're basically correct -- law enforcement officers have directives to bust drug operations that come to their attention -- but they have a wide array of discretion not to, particularly in cases like this one. The couple was clearly in compliance with the state's medical marijuana law, a law covering the WSP's state jurisdiction, so there's no need to make an arrest that won't get charged. The new medical marijuana amendment passed earlier this year specifically allows the officers to leave the evidence (i.e., the pot plants) behind. They should have had a warrant before they entered the home, but they didn't get one till later. Considering the family's grief, this appears to be a case where enforcement discretion fell on the side of egregious and unconscionable.

But before blaming an officer or a directive, we can wait until tomorrow. An officer who was involved in bust is supposed to call me in the morning with WSP's version of events. More info as it come in.

Posted by Dominic Holden | July 12, 2007 6:56 PM


So, blacks protesting to get the right to vote is the same as a bunch of white dirtbags in seattle smoking dope on their couch? Dude, pass that J over here.

Pot head douchebag. Get a job.

Posted by ecce homo | July 12, 2007 7:32 PM

@ 18

Ah, SoupyTwist? In the 30's, it was the Washingto HIGHWAY Patrol - but only for a few years. So yeah, nitpick away, but there is such a thing as WHP.

Another nitpick. How was dude, who is allegedly too disabled to work, and living in Section 8 housing, able to squirrel away 2 large in cash? Surely he wasn't > SELLING POT!?!?

You don't like it, change the law. Till then, growing marijuana is illegal.

Posted by WHP Fan | July 12, 2007 7:52 PM

Suck it @21, did you know that pot rivals apples as Washington's #1 cash crop? Why don't you get off your empty soapbox and let people go to work.

Posted by vegetable lasagna | July 12, 2007 8:04 PM

@ 22 - Mr. Osman says the cash was loaned from a family member; not dealing marijuana. He also said this: "We've never sold or given any away. We followed the letter of the law because we were afraid to lose our privileges."

The specific privilege he refers to is being allowed to cultivate marijuana under Washington's Medical Use of Marijuana Act, passed in 1998. So the law was changed, despite your bizarre implication that it wasn't, making it legal for authorized patients to grow pot in Washington state. Unfortunately, it is also legal for law enforcement to use a loophole to arrest patients before they're cleared of wrongdoing in court.

Posted by Dominic Holden | July 12, 2007 8:10 PM


Ah, "suck it".

I shall never fear the takeover of the US by pot heads. THey are all far to stupid and lazy. Not to mention borderline illiterate.

So an illegal drug is a cash crop huh? The number 1 cash crop though? Please...just cause you square away enough for a quarter a week does not mean that the rest of us folks do.

Try this, sober up, get a real job, and join society. Until then, quit breathing my air. When I see one of you smoking your crap on the streets around my kids, I make a point of singling you out and harrasing you until one of two things happen: You leave in a huff, or you open your mouth at which point I slap the shit out of you. Believe, I did it to a bum at a playground in wallingford one time. None of the other parents seemed to mind.

Posted by ecce homo | July 12, 2007 8:19 PM

Knowing you'd say that, I also included the info about oral sex being a felony in Virginia. Is a blow-job more comparable to smoking pot for you than the civil rights movement?

I have a job. I don't smoke pot. Go die in a fire.

Posted by SteveR | July 12, 2007 8:24 PM

Forget what they did after they got to the house (illegal search, etc.), why the hell did they feel it necessary or appropriate to act by confronting a family right after a death based on what an eight year old said (and no doubt with some promptin)? Did the WSP feel they were protecting this eight year old? What a bunch of fuck heads.

As for the family getting a settlement from the county; I hope not, I hope it comes from the state not the county since these were state police. At least that way the payout will be from the decidedly reactionary red counties that aren't part of the more educated and enlightened urban Puget Sound core.

Asshole @25: I smoke pot, for recreation, not for health reasons. I also have a high paying job where I've been recently promoted, own a home, and am generally regarded by all who know me as a very successful individual.

Get over your asinine stupid assumptions. Whoops, won't happen because you've already demonstrated what a jerk you are.

Posted by Aaron | July 12, 2007 8:38 PM

Ecce, you really are a jackass. There was no crime for them to investigate since medical marijuana is legal in this state. As for some pot smokers who got jobs, there are oh, greater than 60% of Americans. That's what's called a supermajority. The point everyone here is trying to make is that while pot may be illegal, it shouldn't be. Every medical authority since the time Richard Nixon put together a committee to study the subject has said the same thing: pot should be legal.

I'm just really amazed that you think that smoking pot is serious enough to warrant the money and effort we spend on prosecuting it. If you do, then you've revealed yourself to just be someone who loves authority, and I have no doubt you can't cum without a government jackboot on your throat.

Posted by Gitai | July 12, 2007 8:53 PM

Medical Marijuana isn't LEGAL in the least. Read the statute. It provides for an affirmitive defense.

BTW, the Feds don't recognize state medical marijuana laws. If you grow plants (for whatever reason) it is a felony and depending on the number of plants carries a mandatory sentence. Right or wrong, its the freaking law. Don't get all upity because it's illegal. BTW, this isn't a civil rights issue, so spare me the "Jackboots" sentiment.

And I SERIOUSLY doubt 60% of americans smoke pot.

Posted by ecce homo | July 12, 2007 9:10 PM

hey homo -- do you ever read anything besides slog?

Because if you did, you might know that marijuana is the largest cash crop in a whole flotilla of states and is second or third in many others. The underground economy around marijuana is huge. In fact, a former mayor of Vancouver credits marijuana with saving the economy of BC in the late 90s.

You would also know that there is now a disconnect between federal and state and municipal laws all across the country. So although medical marijuana and growing it remains illegal at the federal level, it is legal and protected at local levels.

You would also know that by the federal government's own estimates at least half of the US population has tried marijuana. The real numbers are certainly higher.

And finally, anyone who consistently spells definitely "definately" and doesn't know the difference between "to" and "too" should never accuse anyone else of having literacy issues.

Posted by gnossos | July 12, 2007 11:15 PM

@25 ecce homo, I don't smoke pot, because it makes me barf, but if I knew you, and knew where you lived, I would go and smoke pot, and barf, right in front of you and your kids, because you are such a self-righteous jackass. And if you really are such a jackass and your answer is to "slap the shit" out of people, chances are your children will grow up to smoke big ol' bowls o'green. Speaking from experience, it's the kids of the most self-righteous that smoke the biggest bowls. Choke on that.

Posted by TSA | July 12, 2007 11:15 PM



Dope is the biggest cash crop in the US?

You are a fucking moron.

I guess corn and soy beans don't have anything on that sticky bud huh...

Keep on smokin' ya bum. Maybe you'll find a fucking job at the end of that blunt.

Posted by ecce homo | July 12, 2007 11:21 PM

@32-- I should know better than to even respond to this idiot at this point, but...

I didn't say largest cash crop in US. I said in "a flotilla of states."

Yet, oddly enough, this report from ABC says that it may be:

A simple google of "cash crop marijuana US" reveals many articles on the subject.

If you ever learn to read and do basic research, slog will be a better place.

But I'm betting pigs will fly before then.

Posted by gnossos | July 12, 2007 11:33 PM

*Ignoring nonsense controversy around ecce homo*

What a horrible fucking tragedy for this little girl.
I hope the State is ready to pay out for her lifelong therapy.

Posted by Justin | July 13, 2007 12:35 AM

@29 It most certainly is a civil rights issue. In the name of the Drug War, our civil rights have been trampled. Our rights against unreasonable search and seizure, our right against cruel and unusual punishment, and our right to have the appropriate medicine have all been seriously undermined, all in the name of stamping out drugs. Even if you're not found guilty, your property can be seized under laws that were originally intended for drug lords, but have been applied to middle class homeowners.

And don't give me this "it's the law" bullshit. You know as well as I do that when a law is unjust, it is the duty of all citizens to work against that law, through means within the system, such as voting and lobbying, and outside the system, such as civil disobedience. Your attitude is one that a fascist finds ideal, "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, and nothing against the state." Again, either you're not noticing the jackboot against your neck, or you're enjoying it.

Posted by Gitai | July 13, 2007 11:57 AM

The real question is whether the little girl will get the ten grand for narcing on her parents.

Posted by Aexia | July 13, 2007 2:06 PM

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