Online fundraiser launched for Paris marijuana caregiver

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PARIS — A crowdfunding campaign has been launched, to help pay for legal defense, for the Paris medical marijuana caregiver who had his operation raided and crop burned by the Paris Police Department.

Richard Jackson, 48, of King Hill Road, was indicted in October 2015 – more than a year after law enforcement seized roughly $500,000 worth of marijuana during a raid – on one count of unlawful possession of scheduled drugs and one count of marijuana cultivation. Jackson has been a licensed medical marijuana caregiver with the state of Maine since 2010 and “has provided a great benefit to members of his community by producing and providing high quality medications to qualified patients,” according to a Nov. 1, 2015, letter from his attorney, Gregory Braun.

The crowdfunding campaign is through Funded Justice at www.fundedjustice.com/en/projects/25575-Caregiver-Richard-Jackson-Legal-Defense-Fund and has a goal of raising $20,000 by May 2, 2016. Braun launched the fundraiser on Nov. 3, according to Funded Justice Chief Operating Officer Alan Savage. As of Tuesday morning, no money had been raised.

The COO explained what his organization does.

“We’ve been called profunding with a purpose. We only help people with … any legal issue of social justice. We don’t take a side. We believe everybody should have the best presentation they should have,” Savage said. “We’re different from GoFundMe. We actually go out and try to find people to donate to your campaign. It’s a lot of work, sometimes you can’t find people. … The problem is if you have had this situation, other people probably have, too.”

In late September 2014, Jackson called the Paris Police Department to report suspicious activity around his home and marijuana grow, according to the fundraising website.

“He asked that the South Paris Police Department step up patrols in his area and, if necessary, to please visit the property so that he could better identify the areas where this activity had occurred and the basis for his concerns,” the website reads. “What transpired after his call is nothing short of tragic.”

Paris Police, with the assistance of Norway and Oxford police departments, raided two residences on King Hill Road and seized 18 pounds of marijuana and 173 plants. Then-Police Chief Michael Madden said police had investigated six months prior leading up to the raid because neighbors complained about the operation, according to Sun Media Group archives.

At the time, Madden said, “The activity was clearly in violation of the Department and Health and Human Services-issued licenses that the homeowners and workers possessed.” Police said they later discovered only three of the 15 patients were registered with the state.

Jackson and Braun disagree.

“Rather than take any measures – or recommendations – to address Richard’s concerns, the South Paris Police Department immediately, and without justification, confiscated Richard’s entire crop and seized all of the medicine and plants which he was lawfully in possession of,” the website reads.

“For more than a year, Richard, through counsel, attempted to resolve the dispute and explain to law enforcement why he had committed no crime. Despite those arguments and explanations, Richard has now been charged by indictment with felony marijuana possession and cultivation charges even though no crime has been committed.”

In July 2015, Paris Police burned the crop after receiving approval from Assistant Attorney General David Fisher to do so after it rotted in storage. In August, Braun told the Sun Media Group he wasn’t aware of the order to destroy the plants and called the action “unilateral” because a judge did not issue the order.

In Braun’s letter, he states “the accusations in this indictment … are nothing but allegations; they have been unproven by any standard, let alone the criminal standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“Were it not for law enforcement’s misunderstanding of the laws it has sworn to uphold, Richard would not find himself where he does today,” the website reads. “Richard’s case is likely to be precedent setting as it will address issues regarding the characteristics of the plants and curing marijuana and will require the assistance of experts to assist the jury in understanding the process of growing and processing marijuana for medicinal use.”

Interim Paris Police Chief Jeff Lange – who was in charge of the investigation as detective sergeant – said by email he couldn’t comment on the case because it hasn’t gone to trial yet. Braun declined to comment further, noting his client’s case should play out in court.

Jackson will be arraigned at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 17, at South Paris Superior Court.

eplace@sunmediagroup.net