Cops raid couple for drinking tea and shopping at a gardening store
Closeup of marijuana bud (Shutterstock)

Back in 2012, authorities in Kansas raided the home of two CIA analysts due to suspicions that the couple was trafficking marijuana. When the SWAT team barged into the home of Robert and Addie Harte in search of a major grow operation, they failed to find any evidence of the sort, so they changed their objective to finding pot for personal use. They found nothing.

So what type of probable cause did authorities have to justify the raid, which included Robert Harte being held at gunpoint for two hours?

There were two questionable pieces of "evidence" the cops cited to obtain the warrant necessary for the raid. The investigation began when Robert took his son to a gardening store to purchase hydroponics to grow tomatoes for a school project. Unbeknownst to Robert, there was a state trooper outside creating a spreadsheet of everyone who shopped at the store, complete with license plate numbers. The spreadsheet was then sent to the Sheriff's Department for further investigation.

More than six months later, the Sheriff's Department began digging through trash cans belonging to the Harte family in hopes of finding pot residue or drug paraphernalia. According to Radley Balko of The Washington Post:

"On two occasions, a drug testing field kit inexplicably indicated the presence of THC, the active drug in marijuana. It was on the basis of those tests and Harte’s patronage of a gardening store that the police obtained the warrant for the SWAT raid."

While the supposed presence of THC does seem to qualify as solid probable cause, the reality is that the finding was deceptive and inaccurate to say the least.

Balko notes that "A partial list of substances that the tests have mistaken for illegal drugs would include sage, chocolate chip cookies, motor oil, spearmint, soap, tortilla dough, deodorant, billiard’s chalk, patchouli, flour, eucalyptus, breath mints, Jolly Ranchers and vitamins."

The Marijuana Policy Project revealed how the tests could be manipulated to generate positive results, with one researcher from the South Carolina Center for Biotechnology testing a sample of oregano and coming up with a positive result for cocaine.

As the researcher "dumped a sample of oregano into a field test kit, Mintwood Media’s Adam Eidinger produced a positive test result for cocaine with another kit simply by exposing it to the atmosphere. 'This is just air,' Eidinger said, opening up a test and waving it as the reagent turned orange, indicating a positive result."

The cops refused to wait 10 days for further testing to confirm their initial finding and raided the Harte family on April 20th of 2012. If you connect the dots, you can see that waiting 10 days would jeopardize the publicity stunt authorities pull on 4/20 when they raid several homes in an effort to appear "tough on crime." The annual raids are referred to as "Operation Constant Gardner." What the authorities are really tough on is tax-payer-funded resources being misused for nonsense drug raids.

The substance that had tested positive for THC was actually loose leaf tea that Addie Harte drinks every night.

Despite the fact that the evidence leading up to the raid was questionable, recently U.S. District Court Judge John W. Lungstrum dismissed every one of the Hartes’ claims in a lawsuit they filed against the authorities. Judge Lungstrum stated that the police had probable cause for the search, and that they did not violate the privacy rights of the couple. Apparently shopping at a gardening store and drinking tea is enough information the cops the need to forcefully enter homes and hold innocent people at gunpoint for hours.

But what if the Hartes were in possession of marijuana? What if there was legitimate reasonable suspicion that they were toking up every night after working for the CIA? Is that what we want resources funneled to when marijuana is currently legal for recreational use in four states and the District of Columbia? There are also 23 states that have legalized pot for medicinal use.

We all know the reality about substance abuse in the country and the ramifications of using legalized substances in excess. Alcohol is the main cause of approximately 88,000 deaths in the U.S. every year according to the CDC, and the American Cancer Society found that tobacco kills 6 million people around the world annually. No one has ever died of a marijuana overdose, and yet authorities keep pushing for this ridiculous war on pot in a disingenuous effort to "keep us safe."

The lack of uniformity regarding marijuana laws from one state to the next is laughable, which is why it's so important to legalize pot on a federal level. Why does a couple in Oregon get to spark up for the hell of it while a couple in Kansas gets raided for the mere suspicion of possessing or selling it?

People's lives continue to get destroyed, not by a plant, but by those who deem that the plant dangerous. The war on drugs is not meant to keep anyone safe - it's profit driven, it's unjustly intrusive, and it's counterproductive. When you create a black market for weed, you simultaneously create big business opportunities for drug dealers and cops alike.