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The Sage/Marijuana Lawsuit

March 22, 2012

WARNING: If you are currently being treated for high blood pressure—proceed with caution!

From our very latest “Big John” publication, Uncle John’s 24-KARAT-GOLD Bathroom Reader (page 351 if you already have it):

THE PLAINTIFF: Robin Brown, 48, amateur birdwatcher and employee at Massage Envy in Weston, Florida

THE DEFENDANT: Mark Horn, assistant state attorney in Broward County, Florida

THE LAWSUIT: One day in 2009, Brown was birdwatching in a patch of woods in Weston. As she often did, Brown said a prayer for peace and burned a small bundle of sage, a Native American purification ritual known as “smudging.” When she returned to her car, Broward County Sheriff ’s Deputy Dominic Raimondi was waiting for her. Suspecting that she was smoking marijuana, he searched her bag and found the sage. Although sage and marijuana don’t look (or smell) anything alike, Raimondi put the sage into a field testing kit, which is known for giving false positives. The substance tested positive for marijuana, but Raimondi let Brown go and sent the sage to the crime lab for a proper test.

Three months passed. Brown forgot about the incident…until the police entered her workplace, arrested her on felony drug charges, handcuffed her, and marched her out in front of her customers and coworkers. At the station, Brown was strip-searched, cavity-searched, and put in jail for the night. “I tried to act tough,” she later said, “but inside I was quaking.” The next day, Brown hired a lawyer, Bill Ullman, to find out why she had been arrested. The answer: Assistant State Attorney Mark Horn was supposed to have had the sage tested; for some reason, he didn’t do it, but he ordered her arrest anyway. Ullman demanded that the substance be tested; when it finally was, it was indeed sage. The charges were dropped. Brown then filed a civil suit against Horn.

THE VERDICT: The judge dismissed the case. “Prosecutors are given immunity from lawsuits in the course of doing their jobs,” he said. Ullman disagreed. “Horn wasn’t doing his job. He filed a false statement swearing she had marijuana, and she didn’t.” At last report, the case was under appeal.

Fun, huh?!

• You can see a video of Ms. Brown explaining what happened at the Palm Beach Post.

• And you can read more infuriaating and/or hilarious lawsuit stories in Uncle John’s 24-KARAT-GOLD Bathroom Reader.

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