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Veteran sues County, Coronado after children were wrongfully taken because of medical marijuana use

Gulf War veteran Michael Lewis and his family have filed a lawsuit against the County of San Diego, the City of Coronado, and several employees with each entity, claiming civil rights violations, battery, false imprisonment and negligence after the County removed Lewis’s two children from his custody for nearly a year over his legal use of medical marijuana.

Courthouse News Service reports that on August 5, 2011, Coronado police received an anonymous tip that Lewis and his wife Lauren Taylor were running an illegal daycare operation and smoking marijuana in front of the children. The couple allowed officers to come into the home and photograph its interior in order to prove that no daycare facility existed, though while searching the property police located Lewis’s marijuana.

“Although the officers found marijuana in the home, Michael Lewis had a medical marijuana recommendation and his use was legal,” the family’s complaint states, noting that Lewis presented officers with his legal recommendation for the use of marijuana due to severe migraine headaches he suffers as a result of chemical exposure while in the military. “The officers then left and wrote a report. In their report, the officers identified marijuana as the only purported 'hazard' in the residence. Neither Lewis nor Taylor were ever criminally prosecuted for the possession and/or use of the marijuana.”

Lewis insists his children were never exposed to his marijuana use in any way.

Three days later, County officials returned to the residence and removed the couple’s two children, four-year-old Cameran and two-year-old Bailey, placing them in the care of the Polinsky Children’s Center, a “temporary emergency shelter of children who must be separated from their families for their own safety,” according to the County’s website.

“The children were there for approximately two weeks without their parents and were no doubt terrified,” states the family’s complaint. “The only allegations against Lewis and Taylor were, essentially, that Lewis legally used marijuana, and police found marijuana in the home . . . there was no reasonable or articulable evidence to suggest that either child was in immediate danger of suffering severe bodily injury or death at the hands of either Lewis or Taylor in the time it would have taken to obtain a protective custody warrant.”

Employees at Polinsky determined that both children were “developmentally on target” and showed no signs of neglect or abuse.

Lewis and Taylor then petitioned County Health and Human Services agent Ian Baxter (a defendant in the suit) for the return of their children, submitting photographs of their clean home, the lockbox in which Lewis kept his marijuana, and a padlocked area where he grew his own marijuana plants. Baxter nonetheless filed an emergency placement petition with juvenile court to keep the family separated, making what the family claims were blatantly fabricated allegations in the process.

“Baxter misled the court by stating that he did not need to conduct any pre-placement preventive services because of the 'emergent nature' of the situation and asserted that Michael and Lauren left their children 'inadequately attended and inadequately supervised' around the marijuana,” continues the complaint. “This statement was totally false, and Baxter knew it, or - even worse - simply didn't care.”

County employees further lied to the court by stating that Lewis’s marijuana use had not been sanctioned by a doctor despite his evidence to the contrary, and that he had substance abuse issues, which were never documented. In February 2012, the County further alleged that Lewis had a mental illness that made him unfit to care for the children.

On August 2, 2012, an appellate court threw out the juvenile court’s rulings, finding that “the record does not support a finding that Lewis' marijuana use or alleged mental illness had any negative impact on the children.”

Five days later, a full 364 days after the children were seized by the County, Cameran and Bailey were allowed to return home.

The family seeks unspecified punitive damages.

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Gulf War veteran Michael Lewis and his family have filed a lawsuit against the County of San Diego, the City of Coronado, and several employees with each entity, claiming civil rights violations, battery, false imprisonment and negligence after the County removed Lewis’s two children from his custody for nearly a year over his legal use of medical marijuana.

Courthouse News Service reports that on August 5, 2011, Coronado police received an anonymous tip that Lewis and his wife Lauren Taylor were running an illegal daycare operation and smoking marijuana in front of the children. The couple allowed officers to come into the home and photograph its interior in order to prove that no daycare facility existed, though while searching the property police located Lewis’s marijuana.

“Although the officers found marijuana in the home, Michael Lewis had a medical marijuana recommendation and his use was legal,” the family’s complaint states, noting that Lewis presented officers with his legal recommendation for the use of marijuana due to severe migraine headaches he suffers as a result of chemical exposure while in the military. “The officers then left and wrote a report. In their report, the officers identified marijuana as the only purported 'hazard' in the residence. Neither Lewis nor Taylor were ever criminally prosecuted for the possession and/or use of the marijuana.”

Lewis insists his children were never exposed to his marijuana use in any way.

Three days later, County officials returned to the residence and removed the couple’s two children, four-year-old Cameran and two-year-old Bailey, placing them in the care of the Polinsky Children’s Center, a “temporary emergency shelter of children who must be separated from their families for their own safety,” according to the County’s website.

“The children were there for approximately two weeks without their parents and were no doubt terrified,” states the family’s complaint. “The only allegations against Lewis and Taylor were, essentially, that Lewis legally used marijuana, and police found marijuana in the home . . . there was no reasonable or articulable evidence to suggest that either child was in immediate danger of suffering severe bodily injury or death at the hands of either Lewis or Taylor in the time it would have taken to obtain a protective custody warrant.”

Employees at Polinsky determined that both children were “developmentally on target” and showed no signs of neglect or abuse.

Lewis and Taylor then petitioned County Health and Human Services agent Ian Baxter (a defendant in the suit) for the return of their children, submitting photographs of their clean home, the lockbox in which Lewis kept his marijuana, and a padlocked area where he grew his own marijuana plants. Baxter nonetheless filed an emergency placement petition with juvenile court to keep the family separated, making what the family claims were blatantly fabricated allegations in the process.

“Baxter misled the court by stating that he did not need to conduct any pre-placement preventive services because of the 'emergent nature' of the situation and asserted that Michael and Lauren left their children 'inadequately attended and inadequately supervised' around the marijuana,” continues the complaint. “This statement was totally false, and Baxter knew it, or - even worse - simply didn't care.”

County employees further lied to the court by stating that Lewis’s marijuana use had not been sanctioned by a doctor despite his evidence to the contrary, and that he had substance abuse issues, which were never documented. In February 2012, the County further alleged that Lewis had a mental illness that made him unfit to care for the children.

On August 2, 2012, an appellate court threw out the juvenile court’s rulings, finding that “the record does not support a finding that Lewis' marijuana use or alleged mental illness had any negative impact on the children.”

Five days later, a full 364 days after the children were seized by the County, Cameran and Bailey were allowed to return home.

The family seeks unspecified punitive damages.

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Comments
6

This is what happens when states legalize something that is illegal under federal law.

Aug. 14, 2013

This is what happens when those in positions of authority decide to force their own particular beliefs on others, instead of enforcing the law. All of the officials involved in this story know weed is legal in CA, and they knew the guy had paperwork that legitimized his use. What happened to this family is inexcusable.

This is just like those religious crackpots that show up everywhere with their signs and their literature; they just want to force everyone else to accept their beliefs and they will either hound you to death until you do, or, if they find they have law enforcement officials who happen to share their views, they will use them to accomplish the same thing. They are opposed to marijuana use but not above using the authorities to deny others free choice under the law. Typical gestapo tactics, and law enforcement, like the rabid dogs they are, are more than happy to assist.

I hope this guy sues these creeps for everything they've got--and wins.

Aug. 14, 2013

Javajoe25--I don't disagree with you, but I fear that if this eventually goes to a federal court, that court will find for the federal government. I believe it should be legalized on the federal level, but until it is, this crap will still happen.

Aug. 14, 2013

I hope you get a bucket load of money for the unnecessary trauma your small children and you went through. First, reports are that Polinsky center is dangerous itself. Then a full year apart in a strangers home is insane and dangerous. The "counselor/ case workers" who need to be right that a parent is a bad person or addict or lousy parent already have it in their head. Lots are but not for what you describe. I had an experience with them when my daughter was 4. Fortunately I stood up to the bitch who, without warning appeared on my doorstep and demanded I give her my little daughter. I did not, my motherinlaw and her friend made complaints that I drank too much (which I did cause I was home in an unhappy marriage all the time) but she was safe. I called police and my husband to get home from work and I had to move out of the house for her to stay with him. I really hate the power of that position, terrorists without mercy. In court that witch gave me intentional mean, dirty looks to show the court I wasn't worthy of my own child if I cracked back, which I didn't. Did all their required parenting classes and therapy, kept visitation, some of it was supervised by my sick and twisted motherinlaw, who drank every day herself but didn't bother about that.

Aug. 14, 2013

I was not evicted. As was intended, I went flying out of my residence into a police car. The Sergeant GOMEZ of SDPD saw to it, bringing a "mental health" goon to rubber-stamp this robbery. And my landlady threatened to "tell the police how you treat your son"' I smoke marijuana.

I was arrested on a pretext, a phony with no allegation of crime, no charges. I was robbed with the help of police, of whom you can be so proud. Do you suppose a man with money in his account hasn't got a dollar in his room, a paid-up room? And, after breaking the lock and changing it, this is standard here? I will check directly.

No, the San Diego of sailor-boarding houses is not gone. Renters are still subject to the practice of shanghaiing. You have illegal garage conversions, which is not a topic that the Code Enforcement Department is supposed to waive.

In other words, I am encountering now exactly similar conditions as the man in this article. I can attest as to rampant corruption in basically every functional office in this city. Thanks, CIA, and your Blue brothers. How about you stop abusing our city?

Aug. 14, 2013

Interesting article, however 'This Ain't Hell" says Mr. Lewis is a "Phony Gulf War Vet" based on his FOIA document. Here is a link: http://thisainthell.us/blog/?p=37122&cpage=2#comment-909101 So it begs the question, if he's lying about his service, what else is he lying about?

Aug. 21, 2013

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