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MMJ Activist Sues Over Police Surveillance

A Los Angeles-area medical marijuana activist is suing police over what she describes as a constant campaign of surveillance and harassment.

Susan Soares, who has tangled with local authorities in the past, filed a lawsuit against the Redondo Beach Police Department and other defendants. She claims they labeled her one of five targeted “career criminals” operating in the city and placed her under constant surveillance.

susan soares
Medical marijuana activist, Susan Soares

Soares is a longtime MMJ activist, non-profit cultivator and patient. She has continued her operations in Redondo Beach despite repeated attempts to shut her down, and she said the surveillance is a sign authorities intend to erase medical weed in any form, regardless of state law.

“I have never profited from cannabis cultivation,” she said in her lawsuit. “I have never sold any illegal drugs or violated California law. I have to assume that I’m being targeted because Redondo Beach wants nothing to do with medical marijuana and doesn’t care that an overwhelming majority of California voters approved of the Compassionate Use Act.”

That law, passed by the state’s voters in 1996, legalized medical cannabis. It allows qualified patients to grow and possess weed – and, many believe, to buy it from collective dispensaries.

But pot shops overwhelmed much of the state in the decade between 2000 and 2010, and many local governments responded with a severe backlash. They banned all dispensaries and even outlawed cultivation – despite the fact that the state law explicitly allows it.

The California Supreme Court has endorsed these tactics. The state is now a patchwork quilt of places that allow MMJ openly, places that regulate aspects of it, and a growing number of places trying to stamp it out completely.

doctor medical marijuanaPolice have hassled Soares for years. They raided her garden in 2011 and refused to give her pot back when their case fell apart. She sued but lost.

Her new suit alleges the police department and other defendants violated her constitutional rights. Specifically, she said they deprived of her right to free speech, her right to free association, her right to protection against unreasonable search and seizure, her right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and her freedom of commerce in buying and possessing a legal substance for medical needs.

Soares had a summary judgment hearing in early April. Her trial is scheduled to begin May 13 in U.S. District Court.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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