How A Family's Lack Of Access To Medical Marijuana Morphed Into A Messy Legal Feud

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A family's desperation for access to medical marijuana is at the heart of a "nightmare" feud that has wound its way through Illinois courts.

Like so many parents of chronically or terminally ill children, Jennifer Scherr was willing to go to great lengths for access to medical marijuana that could ease the suffering of her dying 7-year-old daughter, Liza.

The Chicago mother found cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabis-derived compound used to treat epilepsy and cancer, to be prohibitively expensive. She began growing her own marijuana to extract the oil herself, according to a complaint that last week reached the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Court records say Scherr was aided by her father-in-law Curtis Scherr, a Chicago cop who helped her grow the marijuana in her basement. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Curtis Scherr went so far as to supply everything from special growing lights to intel on how to avoid police detection.

The family members allegedly started the basement crop in 2011, before the passage of Illinois' medical marijuana pilot program and a recently-passed bill granting sick children access to medical marijuana-based treatment.

When Liza succumbed to a brain tumor in 2012, court documents indicate disagreements over funeral arrangements sparked a feud between the family members. Days later, DEA agents searched Jennifer Scherr's home at the behest of her father-in-law.

In his application for a search warrant for his daughter-in-law's home, Scherr did not disclose his relationship with Jennifer or his role in the growing operation, according to court records.

Though the DEA's search came up empty -- Jennifer Scherr said she discarded the marijuana plants immediately after Liza's death -- she filed a federal lawsuit against her father-in-law, a second police officer, and the City of Chicago, accusing them of violating her Fourth Amendments rights against unreasonable searches by setting the raid in motion.

Jennifer Scherr's lawsuit was tossed by a U.S. District Judge last year, who found that motivation was irrelevant to the fact Scherr had indeed maintained an illegal growing operation. The U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the decision last week, but was sympathetic enough to suggest Scherr might try her luck pursuing a state claim against her father-in-law for intentional infliction of emotional distress, Reason reports.

"There is little doubt (always assuming the truth of the allegations in the complaint) that Curtis Scherr intended to inflict severe emotional distress on his daughter-in-law and succeeded in doing so,” wrote Judge Richard Posner, who described Scherr's behavior as "atrocious."

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