A few days before Christmas, Tom Cadamagnani decided to help a friend who was down on her luck. The former Marine and his friend jumped in his truck and headed for the Salvation Army to get some presents for her grandkids.
They never got there.
A Tucson police officer stopped Cadamagnani, 50, on Dec. 20 for a minor registration glitch, saw a pipe in his truck, and cited the medical-marijuana patient for an expired registration, DUI and possession of drug paraphernalia. The expired registration was a record-keeping glitch that has since been cleared up, Cadamagnani said.
He admitted smoking one hit of MMJ—more than six hours before he was pulled over. He said he failed a field-sobriety test because he has a detached meniscus and torn ligaments in his knee—the exact reason he has the MMJ card in the first place. He is awaiting a knee replacement and uses MMJ in lieu of painkillers that were attacking his liver.
I spoke with Tucson Police Department Sgt. Maria Hawke about department policies.
There was no mention of an MMJ card, which Cadamagnani said he presented, in Officer David Danielson's report. The TPD procedure for such cases is clear, said Hawke: When a medical-marijuana patient presents a card, the arresting officer is to call the TPD records section to confirm the information.
"If the officer failed to include it in his report, or didn't follow procedures as far as verifying it, then that would be dealt with internally," she said.
If Cadamagnani presented an MMJ card, then the pipe charge was not appropriate, Hawke said.
Cadamagnani wonders why Officer Danielson even ran his license plate. The tags were current, and the officer's report mentions no moving violation or other illegal traffic moves.
"He called it a random registration check. I thought I was completely legal," Cadamagnani said.
He tells this tale: The trouble started when Danielson walked up to the car, and Cadamagnani was opening the door to talk, because his window doesn't work. The officer tersely told him to stay in the car, and immediately asked if Cadamagnani had just come from buying meth, had been using meth, or had any in the car. Danielson then asked if he could search the car. Only then did he ask for a driver's license, which Cadamagnani gave him.
Then, Cadamagnani, whose father had died a month earlier, started to tear up. He's broke; it's Christmas; his dad just died; and now he is getting a ticket for a pipe he thought was legal because of his MMJ card.
"Then all of a sudden, because I was crying, (the officer) says, 'Is something wrong with you, sir? Have you been drinking?'" Cadamagnani said.
In a report written after the incident, Danielson relates his suspicion. Cadamagnani got upset and pleaded with the officer not to give him a ticket. "Thomas appeared to be very jumpy which made me feel either he was under the influence of something or hiding something in the vehicle that he did not want me to find," Danielson wrote.
Fearing the situation could escalate, Danielson called for a backup officer. A second officer arrived and waited with Cadamagnani while Danielson wrote the citations in his squad car. From the car, Danielson again noted Cadamagnani was crying in his truck.
"I felt he could possibly be under the influence of unknown substance due him (sic) having an un-normal (sic) behavior," Danielson wrote in the report.
Then the officer told Cadamagnani that if he refused a field-sobriety test, he would take him to jail.
"So I thought I would try," he said. He failed.
Since December, Cadamagnani has been waiting for results of a blood test. His public defender, Cynthia Richardson, has so far declined her client's requests to ask for a dismissal of the case. He thinks he was targeted and harassed because he fit a stereotypical tweaker profile—a white guy with a shaved head in a beater vehicle.
There are always two sides, and I haven't heard the entire TPD side. All I have are police reports and breath tests showing a 0.00 blood-alcohol level. It seems like Officer Danielson overreacted. No, the MMJ statute doesn't protect patients from arrest for paraphernalia. No, the paraphernalia statute doesn't make an exception for MMJ patients, even though Hawke said the charge may not have been appropriate.
Police officers use discretion every day, and this looks like a case of poor discretion.