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July 17, 2008

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Pot Look-Alike Case Up in Smoke

A lawsuit that began in 2005 when law enforcement authorities mistook a Mississippi hunting club’s deer food plot for an illegal marijuana-growing operation is apparently finally done with its long run in the court system.


Last week, a federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of the original 2005 lawsuit naming a former Mississippi county sheriff who seized what he believed were pot plants from a hunting club’s property, but instead were 500 kenaf plants grown as a legitimate deer plot on land leased from a timber company.

Here at The Newshound, we’ve been covering the look-alike lawsuit since it first broke in March 2005.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with a federal judge in Mississippi who threw out the lawsuit against the Harrison County Sheriff. Marion Waltman, representing the Boarhog Hunting Club, was seeking $225,000 in compensation for the plants from now-former Sheriff George H. Payne Jr.

Acting on an anonymous tip, Sheriff Payne and Harrison County deputies were assisting agents assigned to a federal drug enforcement team when they removed the plants from the property.


The 5th Circuit upheld an earlier U.S. District Court judge’s ruling that Sheriff Payne made an honest mistake and could not be held liable for damages. Last week’s decision affirmed that Payne’s search was legal under the “open fields” doctrine, which allows officers, under certain circumstances, to seize evidence in plain view without a warrant.

Kenaf is popular as a deer attractant and supplement in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia. It comes in several varieties, one with leaves that resemble marijuana, the other with heart-shaped leaves similar to the hibiscus plant.

The kenaf variety in question has a single leaf with seven lobes. Marijuana (cannabis) plants have seven or nine leaves joined at a common stem.

Where are Cheech and Chong when you need them?


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Sue B

It's a good thing we have law enforcement and the DEA out there spending our tax dollars to keep us safe from dangerous food plots for deer. I know of a similar story from several years back when I worked as a research assistant on a forest ecology project in NE Connecticut. We had some permanent research plots that were fenced in to keep deer and other critters out. We were studying eastern forest regeneration. Our plots were on property owned by the local power company who cooperated with our project. As it turns out, the DEA had been scoping out our plots for a long time and had decided they were marijuana grow plots, even though there was nothing in them that even closely resembled marijuana. It all came to a head when they sent in helicopters and ground forces to raid our little science experiment. I've always wondered how much their attempt to keep America safe cost the tax paying public?