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County settles with medical pot patient

Kitsap County has reimbursed a medical marijuana patient for confiscated property that was destroyed before a not guilty verdict was rendered, but was reluctant to publicize the agreement because it set a possible precedent.

Olalla resident Bruce Olson was arrested in May 2007 on a criminal warrant accusing him of distributing marijuana from his underground grow operation. He was found not guilty of criminal charges on March 24.

On Thursday, Olson was given a check for $2,000 to reimburse him for lights and other equipment that were destroyed before the trial. Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Wilson said the items themselves were not illegal but were confiscated because they were being used in what was determined as a criminal operation.

The money was drawn from the risk management fund, which exists in order to satisfy legal claims against the county.

After a one-on-one meeting with Lieutenant Earl Smith, Olson said he had been asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement as a condition of the settlement. He would not disclose any details, only to say he was satisfied by the action and that he “had been compensated.”

Wilson, however, said he was not aware of any nondisclosure agreement and that Olson “can talk about this to anyone that he wants.”

Wilson said they were destroyed before the trial “per standard procedure due to storage restriction constraints in the sheriff's property evidence holding areas.” This action drew the ire of activist Phil Mocek, who had attended Olson’s trial.

“This is un-American to destroy evidence before guilt or innocence is determined,” Mocek said. “I think it is important that the public know that this is happening.”

Along with the check, video equipment and other possessions that had not been destroyed was returned. In turn, Olson signed an agreement that he would not file any action against the county in this matter.

Wilson said the county was reluctant to publicize the settlement because “we didn’t want every doper who had his property confiscated by the county to come in and ask for it back or request a settlement if it had been destroyed.”

Olson was officially informed the property had been destroyed during his May 19 visit to the sheriff’s office. At that time, he made it clear that he would request replacement of or reimbursement for the confiscated equipment. (see video)

Also at that time Olson made a request for the return of 19 pounds of confiscated marijuana, which he said “was worth a lot of money.” Even if this request was facetious, the Sheriff’s office addressed it seriously. Evidence clerk Brian Bocherding advised Olson that its moldy condition would make it dangerous to ingest, while Wilson said that such a return would be unprecedented.

“The actual packaged marijuana had become contaminated making it unfit to ingest,” he said. “And even if he is authorized to possess the marijuana it is impossible to tell how much he has used since that time, and whether it would exceed the authorization.”

Prior to the meeting with Smith, Olson said he wanted to resolve the matter so he and his wife, who is also a medical marijuana patient, could move out of state.

“I just want to get this over with,” he said. “I want to put all of it behind me.”

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