Marijuana patient disputes validity of search warrant

Posted Jan. 18, 2011, at 7:28 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:31 a.m.
James P. Fowler, 44, of Pittsfield holds a small amount of marijuana that helps alleviate the symptoms of his degenerative disk disease.  (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS)



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At his home in Pittsfield, Jim Fowler holds a small amount of marijuana which he says helps alleviate symptoms of his degenerative disc disease.  In March of this year, Fowler was busted by the DEA for growing marijuana plants, most of which were confiscated. Fowler said he was unjustly busted, because he has permission to grow his own medical marijuana and is growing marijuana for several others. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
BDN
James P. Fowler, 44, of Pittsfield holds a small amount of marijuana that helps alleviate the symptoms of his degenerative disk disease. (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS) CAPTION At his home in Pittsfield, Jim Fowler holds a small amount of marijuana which he says helps alleviate symptoms of his degenerative disc disease. In March of this year, Fowler was busted by the DEA for growing marijuana plants, most of which were confiscated. Fowler said he was unjustly busted, because he has permission to grow his own medical marijuana and is growing marijuana for several others. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
In a growing room in his Pittsfield home, James P. Fowler, 44, looks over some of his medical marijuana crop that he is growing for himself and three other patients. Fowler's home was riaded by drug agents on March19, and he seeks compensation from the state. Since the incident, Fowler said he feels as if his neighbors see him as a criminal.  (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS)



CAPTION



In a growing room in his home in Pittsfield, Jim Fowler looks over some of his medical marijuana crop that he is growing for himself and several area patients. In March of this year, Fowler was busted by the DEA for growing marijuana plants, most of which were confiscated. Fowler who grows marijuana to alleviate symptoms of his degenerative disc disease, said he was unjustly busted, because he has permission to grown his own medical marijuana and is growing for several others. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
BDN
In a growing room in his Pittsfield home, James P. Fowler, 44, looks over some of his medical marijuana crop that he is growing for himself and three other patients. Fowler's home was riaded by drug agents on March19, and he seeks compensation from the state. Since the incident, Fowler said he feels as if his neighbors see him as a criminal. (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS) CAPTION In a growing room in his home in Pittsfield, Jim Fowler looks over some of his medical marijuana crop that he is growing for himself and several area patients. In March of this year, Fowler was busted by the DEA for growing marijuana plants, most of which were confiscated. Fowler who grows marijuana to alleviate symptoms of his degenerative disc disease, said he was unjustly busted, because he has permission to grown his own medical marijuana and is growing for several others. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — A medical marijuana patient whose home was raided by drug agents last March claimed in Somerset County Superior Court on Tuesday that investigators ignored crucial information when they obtained a search warrant.

James P. Fowler, 45, of Pittsfield said his medical marijuana recommendation from his doctor is posted on his Facebook website in the same place as a photo of Fowler that is in his court file as evidence against him. The two pictures are part of a three-photo group in Fowler’s “wall photos” and appear to viewers of the site just inches apart. Time stamps indicate the photos were posted in February 2009, a month before the March 19 search of Fowler’s home.

Elsewhere on Fowler’s Facebook site are photos of marijuana plants growing in his home, which are what attracted law enforcement attention in the first place. A police officer in Florida, who shares a mutual friend with Fowler on Facebook, saw the photos and reported Fowler to the Pittsfield Police Department and Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, according to the defendant’s court-appointed attorney, John Martin of Skowhegan. Martin said during Tuesday’s court hearing that Somerset County sheriff’s Detective Mathew Cunningham used the photos as evidence to obtain a search warrant of Fowler’s property.

Assistant District Attorney Brent Davis argued that the mere presence of Fowler’s medical marijuana card on a website doesn’t prove that Cunningham or other investigators saw it. Even if they did, said Davis, they might not have known its significance in the face of other photos showing what they judged was a significant marijuana crop in Fowler’s home.

“They have to bring something more than just an allegation,” said Davis. “They have to provide proof that Detective Cunningham saw the picture there. We have no information that he ever saw that picture.”

Martin argued that Cunningham could not have missed the photo in investigating Fowler’s Facebook page.

“You need to provide that information to the judge who signs the search warrant,” said Martin. “Mr. Fowler believes his rights have been stomped on. He believes Mr. Cunningham knew exactly what he was doing.”

Agents confiscated 19 marijuana plants in the March 19 raid, leaving Fowler six he was allowed as a patient under Maine’s medical marijuana law at the time. Fowler also was a “designated caregiver” for three other patients, which means he could grow six plants for each of them. The total number of plants investigators found, 25, put Fowler one plant over the limit, though Fowler contends under the law some plants did not count because they were male and not producing usable marijuana.

Fowler, who is charged with cultivating marijuana and possessing marijuana, has told the Bangor Daily News that he believes he is entitled to be compensated for the seized plants.

The arguments heard Tuesday centered on whether the court would grant Fowler a hearing on the validity of the search warrant, which Davis asked the court to deny. Superior Court Justice John Nivison, who presided over Thursday’s arguments, said he would present his findings in writing but didn’t indicate a timeline.

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