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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. – A West Memphis man said he was treated like a criminal and not a patient by police in his community, who arrested him for possessing 1.5 grams of pot – even though he has his Medical Marijuana Card.
Tommie Burnette, Sr. told Fox 13 News on Thursday night, he was treated like a criminal instead of a patient – something he legally is. Burnette is a Arkansas-certified patient. He has his medical marijuana card and showed it to the police. He told the officer he had marijuana in the vehicle, legally, and even consented to a search.
The officer found 1.5 grams of pot – a small amount.
Burnette was arrested, taken into custody, and charged with misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance.
West Memphis cops are standing behind their decision, saying, “This is a legitimate arrest.” But they refused to talk on camera to Fox 13.
Police are claiming in the incident report they could see smoke billowing out of the man’s vehicle when they stopped him. Once approaching the vehicle, the officer said he could smell the “strong odor of burnt marijuana.”
Burnette denies he was smoking in the vehicle and the officer never charged him with driving under the influence. He said he knew his vehicle stunk like weed and wanted to inform police he had a license for it. Police asked him to step out of the vehicle and asked for his permission to search him. He said yes, not having anything to fear. Or so he thought. He was arrested for possession of marijuana for having 1.5 grams in a small plastic sack. Police feel like they have a case.
They do not.
One of the possible reasons police made the arrest was suspicion on if the marijuana was purchased from a dispensary or from a drug dealer.
Under the law, it doesn’t matter.
Having an Arkansas Medical Marijuana card makes the patient immune from the charge of “possession of a controlled substance (marijuana)” unless they have over 2.5 ounces. Arkansas law does not specify that the marijuana must be purchased at the dispensary, nor does it mandate that the marijuana need be kept in specific packaging.
Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington spent several days researching the issue following several requests from NEA Report earlier this week, before this incident even took place.
“According to the ABC director, there is not language in the law requiring pot be kept in the container it was sold in It’s a good idea but not required.”
West Memphis cops told Fox the 1.5 grams was not in a child-proof container, as if this made the arrest legal. It did not. Arkansas statute only mandates that a dispensary or cultivation facility package the weed in a child-proof container.
The law does not place any requirements on the patient.
Obviously, it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs. Burnette was not arrested or charged with this. The incident report alleges burned marijuana was in the car but none was reported as being found.
Burnette maintains he was not using marijuana while driving. He plans to fight the charge with an attorney, if city prosecutors do not drop the charge before he has a chance.