Editor’s note: The online version of this story has been edited to remove an incorrectly paraphrased statement from Somerset County District Attorney Evert Fowle.
PITTSFIELD, Maine — A man whose home was raided by drug agents said the state owes him thousands of dollars for 19 seized marijuana plants that he says he was growing in compliance with Maine’s medical marijuana law.
James P. Fowler, 44, of Pittsfield, who was charged with cultivating marijuana and possession of marijuana after the March 19 raid, said that based on figures used by drug investigators to value marijuana plants, he is owed up to $38,000.
“If they can use $2,000 a plant against me, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” said Fowler, who lives alone at 139 A St. in Pittsfield. “I want some sort of compensation.”
Fowler maintains a sophisticated marijuana growing operation in his home to supply himself and three other patients who have deemed him a “designated caregiver” under the state’s medical marijuana law. That means Fowler can possess up to 2.5 ounces of processed marijuana and six plants for each patient — for a total of 24 plants and 10 ounces of pot.
Investigators found 25 plants in the March 19 raid, but Fowler said some of the plants were male juveniles, which he said are not considered marijuana plants under the law.
Somerset County District Attorney Evert Fowle said the charges against Fowler would be dropped if Fowler can prove that his marijuana plants were legal. But Fowle dismissed Fowler’s contention that he deserves compensation.
“I think that’s ridiculous,” the district attorney said. “I think he has an inflated view of his talents and abilities in the area of marijuana cultivation.”
Fowler said he was home alone when nine law enforcement officers showed up with a search warrant at about noon on March 19. One of the first things Fowler said to the officers was that he is a medical marijuana patient and designated caregiver for others.
He said he showed the officers his prescription, signed by Dr. Dustin Sulak of Hallowell, and offered to show paperwork verifying his “designated caregiver” status.
But an officer implied that Fowler was still in violation of the law, which prompted Fowler to stop volunteering information.
“I’d been read my Miranda rights,” said Fowler. “I chose to remain silent.”
Fowler, who faces a June 30 court date in Somerset County District Court, said he moved to Pittsfield from Massachusetts about a year ago, mostly because of Maine’s medical marijuana law. Fowler said he is supported by Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare. He has a marijuana prescription because of severe degenerative disk disease that was exacerbated during a workplace injury in Massachusetts in 2003. He has been through numerous treatments for the ailment and has been told by doctors that the next logical step is a risky back surgery that Fowler is trying to avoid. He said he is prescribed a cocktail of powerful painkillers and muscle relaxants, but he takes them rarely.
“I can’t even get out of bed when I take them,” he said. “They zone me right out. I don’t want to live my life that way.” Asked to what degree marijuana impairs him, Fowler said not much.
“It’s not about getting high at all,” he said. “If I wanted to get high, I’d eat their morphine.”
Fowler said he realized the medical benefits of marijuana when he stopped smoking it for a while and his symptoms, which include continuous muscle spasms and chronic pain, intensified.
District Attorney Fowle said the Somerset County officers who conducted the March 19 raid acted “appropriately and with restraint.” In fact, Fowle said he was contacted during the raid with a question from an officer in regard to Fowler’s medical marijuana prescription. Fowle instructed the officers to leave behind six marijuana plants — which they did.
“He didn’t provide any information to police about his caregiver status,” said Fowle. “To this day we haven’t seen any of the caregiver information. We remain receptive to that at any time.”
Fowler said he would wait for his court date to present prosecutors with the paperwork, which consists of signed statements from his three patients.
“I’m not going to do that until I can get in front of them with an attorney,” said Fowler. “I’m not going to give them the opportunity to [screw] me again.” Fowler said an attorney has agreed to represent him for free, but that attorney could not be reached on Tuesday.
Fowle would not say exactly what paperwork Fowler would have to produce.
In 2009, Maine voters approved a citizen initiative that made changes to the medical marijuana law. The new law requires marijuana patients and caregivers to possess a state identification card, effective July 1. Under the previous law, providers were required to hold a state-produced form signed by the providers’ patients.
Asked why he waited until now to take his case to the media, Fowler said it took him this long to gather his paperwork.
“Once I got my paperwork in order I started making noise,” he said.
In addition to financial compensation, Fowler said he wants to know why he was raided in the first place and why investigators kept asking if he possessed child pornography. Fowler said he has never possessed such material and officers found no evidence of child pornography during the raid. Since the incident, Fowler said he feels like his neighbors see him as a criminal.
“Everyone in this trailer park thinks I deal heroin and worse drugs,” said Fowler. “I feel like I’m going to have to move.”
Fowle said the justice system is designed to shake out the truth in the long run.
“We go where the evidence leads us,” said Fowle. “Any time we receive information, we act on it. When that happens in this case is up to Mr. Fowler.”