Court Rules Return of Confiscated Medical Marijuana Cannot Be Enforced

Judge Troy L. Nunley of the California Eastern District Court ruled in an Order on Thursday that the plaintiff, Ronald Evans, could not petition the court to recover 10 pounds of marijuana he had in his possession for medical purposes after he was arrested for driving with the marijuana in his car. 

According to the filing, the plaintiff was arrested and later pled guilty to a vehicle code violation. In 2017, the state court decided that the marijuana was possessed lawfully and should be returned to the plaintiff. After showing this decision to an evidence technician for Trinity County he was told it would not be returned, a Deputy District Attorney told him the same thing. This led the plaintiff to file the lawsuit in early 2018. 

The current motion to dismiss was filed by the defendants in October 2019 in response to the plaintiffs’ first amended complaint. The plaintiff purported in the amended complaint that the County of Trinity violated the takings clause in the Fifth Amendment and the Due Process Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment. 

The defendants reportedly argued that Evans did not show that marijuana was a federally protected interest which the plaintiff refuted by arguing that federal law should not preempt state law for purposes of marijuana regulation. 

Judge Nunley agreed with the defendant on the Fifth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment claims that there was “no cognizable federal property interest in marijuana,” and said that a further amended complaint could not address the issues. Despite a previous court ordering that the marijuana was owned legally and should be returned, this court’s determination could not be enforced in federal court. 

Ronald Evans was represented by Samuel C. Williams. The County of Trinity was represented by Rivera Hewitt Paul and George Hills