Medical marijuana caregiver sues in federal court after police raid his home

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GRAND RAPIDS — A medical marijuana caregiver has filed a federal lawsuit after police raided his St. Joseph County home last year.

Police arrested Sean Muntian and his wife, April Armstrong, after raids at their Three Rivers home and business, Triple Ripple Hydroponics. Police seized marijuana and grow equipment, and prompted an investigation by Child Protective Services workers.

Not long after the Jan. 2, 2010 arrests, prosecutors dropped charges, said Southfield attorney Michael Komorn, who specializes in medical-marijuana cases and represented Muntian in the criminal case. He said Monday that police had no interest in Muntian’s status as a medical marijuana caregiver.

In the lawsuit, recently filed in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, an attorney for Muntian and Armstrong wrote: “Despite unequivocal rights granted to Mr. Muntian as a licensed caregiver under Michigan law, (police) refused to allow Mr. Muntian to show them proof of his license and the defendants proceeded to seized medicine and equipment in direct violation of the statute.”

Troy attorney Travis Mihelick also alleged the search of their rental home was illegal. The couple’s landlord had reported to police that she detected the odor of burned marijuana in the residence. Using that information, police obtained a search warrant and arrested the couple, the lawsuit said.

Mihelick alleged that police used “extreme force and the threat of deadly force on suspects who were not resisting.”

Both were taken to jail, the attorney said.

“As a result of the illegal search and seizure, Mr. Muntian was forced to close his medical marijuana store and several of his patients were denied access to their prescription medicine.”

The police agencies have not been served with the lawsuit. Three Rivers Police would not comment, while a message left with the St. Joseph County undersheriff was not returned.

The lawsuit alleges unlawful arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, excessive force and illegal search and seizure.

Komorn, the criminal attorney and a board member of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, said similar cases have occurred across the state.

He said police should have left Muntian alone after determining he was properly licensed. Instead, he was charged with manufacturing marijuana, possession with intent to deliver and maintaining a drug house.

When arrested, Muntian had state approval as a caregiver but had not received his identification card. Applicants may possess and provide marijuana 20 days after approval, whether or not they have received the card.

Police found about 6 ounces of marijuana in his home, and four large plants and 18 small plants, along with growing supplies, at his shop.

Caregivers are limited to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and 12 plants per patient. Once charges were dropped, Komorn said, Muntian was allowed to retrieve his equipment from the police station. He said the raid, with children in the home, was traumatic.

“Those kinds of images are very hard to shake,” Komorn said.

The investigation by protective services workers only made it worse. Investigators found “no issues there,” he said.

“Medical marijuana patients and caregivers are not bad parents,” he said.

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