Scott Waselik was stabbed in the chest in October 2013 by his roommate during a domestic dispute. Shirtless and bloody he immediately went to the Sparta, N.J. police station and then to the hospital. The registered medical marijuana patient never expected to be arrested.
The Sparta Police entered Waselik's apartment while he was being treated for his wounds. The found cannabis, water pipes and other smoking implements. Later that night, they came back with a search warrant, seized all of Scott's material and charged him with possession and paraphernalia offenses.
Waselik successfully won his case last year when Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Critchley ruled that police had no reason or authority to enter the apartment. Scott's attacker, Kevin Rios, was already in custody.
"The circumstances presented to the Sparta police upon arriving at defendant's house did not indicate clear and imminent danger, nor do they support a finding of an objectively reasonable basis to believe an emergency was at hand," stated Judge Critchley in his decision.
All of the evidence that was seized was then suppressed. The criminal charges were dropped.
Still, the Sparta Township prosecutor did not let up and decided to appeal.
This week, the N.J. Court of Appeals upheld Critchley's ruling.
"The totality of the circumstances confirms there were no exigent circumstances, articulable facts, or clear and imminent danger requiring the police to enter defendant's home without a warrant. Accordingly, the motion to suppress was properly granted," concluded Judges Simonelli and Sumners of the N.J. Superior Court Appellate Division.
Now, more than two years later, Scott is waiting to find out if his property will be restored.
"There were bongs, water pipes and regular smoking pipes. Everything a medical marijuana patient would have around," said Waselik.
Today he is reaching out to the police to find out about his possessions.
"They likely disposed of some evidence that I won't get back," he conceded.
Because Waselik is a card carrying N.J. medical marijuana patient, "(t)here should be no foundation for me to assert my affirmative defense," he said.
His medical cannabis was not in the original dispensary container. When within the home it is not required to be stored that way.
If Sparta Police do end up returning the buds and bongs it would not be the first time medical marijuana patients received their state-legal property back from law enforcement.
Last year, the Yuma County, Arizona police had to return marijuana to a patient from California.
In 2013, the Oregon Court of Appeals ordered hashish returned to a local patient.
Some patients have even gotten back growing equipment in states that allow home cultivation.
And it is not just medical cannabis that has been handed back out of the evidence locker to the original owners. Earlier this year in Washington D.C. a man was returned an undisclosed amount of personal, recreational marijuana.
Almost 70 percent of D.C. voters approved a marijuana legalization ballot initiative in 2014. The law went into effect in February of this year. There are no retail shops but District residents can grow their own and posses up to two ounces of marijuana.
A Special Order by the D.C. Metropolitan Police directs that if small amounts of marijuana are seized during an arrest it should be treated as "personal property."
Waselik has endured a significant financial burden because of the incident. He had to change apartments and has paid almost $15,000 in legal bills to defend himself. He is still hopeful for a positive outcome.
"I am expecting some red tape but I'm also expecting for my property to be lawfully returned."
Philly420 will follow up on this story as it develops.
Chris Goldstein is associate editor of Freedom Leaf magazine and on the board of PhillyNorml. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.