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Raid Of The Day: Indoor Gardening Hobby Brings Pot Raid

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GARDENSTORE
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From the Kansas City Star, just this week:

"This is how we were awakened: banging, pounding, screaming," the mother, Adlynn Harte, said Friday. "My husband opened the door right before the battering ram was set to take it out."

The father allegedly was forced to lie shirtless on the foyer while a deputy with an assault rifle stood over him. The children, a 7-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy, reportedly came out of their bedrooms terrified, the teenager with his hands in the air.

And all because the couple, Robert and Adlynn Harte, bought indoor gardening equipment to grow a small number of tomato and squash plants in their basement, according to a lawsuit filed this week. The equipment was never used for marijuana, the couple says, and no one in the family has ever used illegal drugs.

Nearly a year after the SWAT-style raid, the Hartes still don't know what evidence deputies used to persuade a judge to grant a warrant to search their home in the 10300 block of Wenonga Lane on April 20. Their requests for records that could provide such information have been denied by the sheriff's office.

The most likely reason the department won't release the records is that they don't want the public knowing how paltry their evidence was -- in this case, it appears to have been insufficient to distinguish a perfectly legal gardening hobby from a marijuana grow.

These investigations and ensuing raids of people who garden have been going on for years. In fact, in one of our earlier Raid of the Day entries, Sandy and Grace Sanborn were raided in 1999 merely because the couple's son had shopped at a store that sold hydroponic equipment -- because the latter is often used to grow marijuana. And if your gardening habit doesn't get you raided for where you shop, there's also the chance it could get you raided because your local drug cops don't know the difference between marijuana and whatever legal plant you happen to be growing.

Note: The "Raid of the Day" features accounts of police raids I've found, researched, and reported while writing my forthcoming book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. It's due out in July, but you can pre-order it here.

Filed by Radley Balko
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