Police Seize Prescribed Marijuana

It Is Legal for Him to Have Pot, but a Police Sergeant Says It Was Illegal for the Pot to Be in View of the Officer. Mark Gilliland wants his marijuana back.

The 32-year-old Walla Walla resident had about 24 grams of marijuana taken by police officers Friday night after he was pulled over for having expired tabs on his vehicle.

He was also driving with a suspended license and without insurance.

And although officers found the marijuana in a bag sitting on the passenger seat beside Gilliland, he had a legal reason for having it in his possession.

Gilliland has been taking marijuana to treat pain associated with a herniated disc and degenerative disc disease for about a year and a half.

He has a permit from a Bellevue clinic and signed by a doctor that allows him to use and have marijuana. When Gilliland got pulled over, he didn't have the medical form on him, and the marijuana was confiscated.

Understandably, he said.

But when Gilliland tried to collect the marijuana from the police department Monday morning, with the medical authorization in hand, he was turned away.

Gilliland said he got the marijuana for about $200 through a co-op in town he belongs to. The co-op connects people being treated with medical marijuana. That much typically lasts him about a week.

"It works well," he said.

In his opinion, the police need to return his medication.

"I just want it back," he said.

Walla Walla police Sgt. Randy Allessio sees it differently.

Despite Gilliland's permit to use and have marijuana, the medical marijuana law does not allow the use or display of marijuana by such patients in plain sight of the public. Allessio said Gilliland broke the law because the officer could see it on the passenger seat.

"The fact that you have a written authoritization from a doctor...doesn't necessarily excuse you from following the rules of having it," Allessio said.

Gilliland has not been arrested or charged on that violation, although Allessio said the matter is being investigated and reviewed by the prosecutor's office.

Police are investigating whether Gilliland broke the medical marijuana law by having it in plain sight in his vehicle. The marijuana is potential evidence should that case move forward, which is partly why it wasn't handed over Monday.

But even if no charges are brought against Gilliland, Allessio said he doubts Gilliland will see that marijuana again.

Allessio said he couldn't think of any time when marijuana had been handed over by police officers to a member of the public.

"I feel completely uncomfortable delivering marijuana to anybody," Allessio said. "If he needs marijuana he'll just have to grow some more."

In his defense, Gilliland said the interior of his van is not easily seen from the street because it is high up, making the marijuana on the passenger seat difficult to view by the public.

"I don't think it's right for them to steal it from me," he said.

Copyright: 2007 Walla Walla Union-Bulletin