A Pennsylvania couple is suing police after one of their hibiscus plants was mistaken for weed. The events leading up to the suit are quite colorful, so let’s dive into a little history here.
About a month ago, the Cramers neighbors’ tree fell into their yard. As the fallen tree was not the Cramers’ (who are in their late 60s) fault, they decided to call their insurance company, Nationwide. The insurance company sent agent Jonathan Yeamans to their property to investigate the claim, as is protocol.
However, Yeamans might have taken the title of ‘agent’ a little too far and did some investigating of his own. His secretly took photos of some flowering hibiscus plants (which were mistaken for weed) in the Cramers’ yard and sent them to the local police, reporting that the elderly couple had an illegal cannabis grow operation.
Apparently as clueless as Yeamans, the police took the photographs seriously and obtained a search warrant to search the Cramers’ property. Officer Jeffrey Sneddon, Sergeant Scott Hess, and a dozen other officers arrived at the Cramer residence at noon on October 7, much to the surprise of Mrs. Cramer who answered the door to a small army of officers and their guns.
The police were not gentle either. They reportedly forced their way into the Cramers’ home, handcuffed Mrs. Cramer and made her stand outside partially dressed for 10 minutes. Mr. Cramer arrived home shortly after and was placed under arrest at gunpoint. The officers left the couple in a squad car for over 4 hours in 82-degree weather while they searched the residence.
Of course, the officers didn’t find the reported marijuana plants, however, they did seize the hibiscus plants, labeling them as “suspected marijuana plants.” The Cramers were released.
Naturally, the Cramers were infuriated and shaken. The couple sued police after the fiasco. Their suit includes allegations of false arrest, false imprisonment, invasion of privacy, excessive force and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It has also been revealed that officers Sneddon and Hess had claimed to be experts in identifying cannabis plants, yet were unable to tell the difference between a hibiscus plant and a marijuana plant. Not to be left out, Nationwide are also facing a lawsuit as well as Yeamans himself and the Buffalo Township.
Yeamans might do well to ‘think before speaking’ (or taking photos) next time. The Cramers incident also highlights the need for greater police competency when it comes to cannabis, especially as more states and individual cities take steps towards legalization. We don’t want anything else being mistaken for weed.