Another strange medical marijuana bust where state law fails to protect patient from police
On July 10, Chandler Osman, 8, and her grandfather were driving to Montana when they experienced engine trouble at Snoqualmie Pass. While Chandler's grandfather, Larry Maurer, 63, was working under the truck, it rolled back over him, killing him instantly. What followed was even stranger. Chandler and her parents thenran afoul of Washington State's medical marijuana law. Her parents could face felony charges as a result.
After being taken from the scene by State Patrol troopers, Chandler told police that her parents, Bruce and Rainee Osman, grow medical marijuana in their home. Her parents both suffer from active cases of Hepatitis C and have written doctors' recommendations to treat their ailments with marijuana, as state law specifies.
The State Patrol sent officers to the Osman's home in Kent to investigate Chandler Osman's claim. Officers arrested Bruce and Rainee Osman despite being presented with the Osmans' doctor recommendations, say the Osmans. Officers searched the house, finding both marijuana plants and growing equipment. The officers left after confiscating the plants they found and, according to Rainee Osman, destroying the equipment and personal effects. The Osmans were not taken to jail, but were ordered to leave the premises while the house was searched.
The Osmans, after being reunited with Chandler at a nearby restaurant, returned home and found a mess. "They came and destroyed our house," says Bruce Osman. "They had fun. Every expensive thing we had went down the drain." The Osmans say that officers emptied containers of perfume and shampoo, for example, and also damaged artwork.
The Osmans, who are waiting to see if they will be charged by the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, say they are furious over their treatment and the treatment of their daughter by the state patrol.
The Osmans and the State Patrol offer differing accounts of how Chandler Osman told police that her parents grow marijuana. The Osmans say they feel that their daughter was interrogated while the State Patrol claims that she presented the information of her own volition.
According to State Trooper Clifford Pratt, a State Patrol spokesman, the troopers became suspicious after speaking with Rainee Osman. "Her mother said she was unable to [pick up her daughter] and sounded like she was having some difficulties herself, like she was on something," Pratt says. "We asked her [Chandler Osman] if there was any reason why her mother can't come pick her up, to which she responded, 'Mommy is sick and Daddy grows her medicine.' This kind of set off some alarm bells."
According to Rainee Osman, however, the work of the State Patrol was far less innocuous. She says that Chandler did not willingly offer information to the police. "They interrogated my daughter by pretending to be her best friend," Rainee says. "They took advantage of a young girl in a very vulnerable situation."
Douglas Hiatt, the Osmans' lawyer, says he believes that Chandler was interrogated because of a previous 2005 arrest of her parents for growing medical marijuana in their home before the family moved to Kent. "They knew who her parents were and they asked Chandler a long line of questions designed to establish that there was marijuana in the home," Hiatt says.
The State Patrol denies that their intent in conversing with Chandler was to fish out information. "[Marijuana] was something that [Chandler] brought up, and when she brings it up, we have to take a look at what kind of home we're returning the child to," says Bob Calkins, a State Patrol spokesman.
The State Patrol and the Osmans also disagree about the legality of the marijuana being grown in their home. State law, which provides legal protection for patients with medical marijuana recommendations, stipulates that a patient can posses no more than a 60-day supply at any one time. According to Pratt, the Osmans were well beyond the legal amount. He says he believes that possession and distribution charges will be filed. "They had way, way too many plants to be consumed for personal consumption," Pratt said.
Bruce Osman says that he and his wife had approximately 30 mature plants and 30 immature -- or growing -- plants in their home. State law offers no definition of how many plants constitute a 60-day supply, a weakness in the law that puts medical marijuana patients at risk of jail time, medical marijuana advocates have long argued.
Hiatt says he disagrees with the State Patrol. "People that use marijuana as medicine use a lot of plants, they have to," he says. "They use it every day like any other medicine. Bruce and Rainee [Osman] have never sold marijuana or given marijuana to anybody."
Hiatt says he is skeptical that charges will be brought against the Osmans. "In 2005 King County declined to press charges under similar circumstances," Hiatt says. "I would be surprised if they decided to this time around."
While waiting for a charging decision, the Osmans put their lives back together, dealing with the grief of losing a beloved member of the family. Chandler is coping with her loss, but says she still misses her grandfather.
For Bruce and Rainee Osman, their sadness is mixed with bitterness. Recalling the experience of watching his grief-stricken wife subdued and handcuffed and hearing that his daughter had been interrogated, Bruce Osman says, "It was the most inhumane thing I have ever experienced or witnessed."
The State Patrol, however, insists that it acted within its duty and only in the best interest of Chandler Osman. "We have an obligation to investigate illegal activity," Pratt says. "We were just trying to take care of this poor little girl."