State Police Make Pot Bust, Decry Medical Marijuana Laws

The Rhode Island State Police have arrested a man suspected of distributing marijuana and are holding the investigation that led to his arrest up as an example of why the state's medical marijuana laws should be changed.

Police were tipped last year that 65 year-old Louis Magiera of Scituate was growing and distributing marijuana.  An informant purchased marijuana from him and a month later an undercover officer met with Magiera and discussed buying large quantities of marijuana and cocaine.  After that meeting Magiera had no further contact with the officer.

Wednesday, State Police officers flew over his property and a trained spotter along with them confirmed that Magiera had marijuana plants on his property.  The State PD then contacted the RI Department of Health to ask if Magiera was an approved medical marijuana patient or caregiver – but the Department of Health is barred by law from releasing that information to law enforcement officers.

The State Police arrested him as he was leaving his house and secured the property with a SWAT team.  While searching the property police found 20 marijuana plants.  Mr. Magiera told them he was in fact a medical marijuana patient but patients are only allowed 12 plants.  Mr. Magiera was therefore only charged with growing marijuana in excess of what he was allowed to grow.

State Police Captain David Neill says that had the Department of Health informed them that Magiera was a medical marijuana patient, the tone of their investigation would have changed considerably.  Had the State Police known he was legally allowed to grow some plants they would not have used the SWAT team to execute a search warrant on his property, instead likely trying a less intrusive tactic of verifying how much he was growing – perhaps even just a meeting with uniformed officers.

The original tip portrayed Magiera as a major distributor of narcotics, which Neill says necessitated a serious – and ultimately unnecessary – response from the State Police.