Elderly couple sue after police mistake hibiscus for marijuana

By Ben Hooper  |  Nov. 20, 2017 at 10:26 AM
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Nov. 20 (UPI) -- A Pennsylvania couple's lawsuit alleges police conducted a drug raid on their home when hibiscus plants were confused for marijuana.

Audrey and Edward Cramer, ages 66 and 69, filed a lawsuit naming Buffalo Township police and the Nationwide Insurance Co. after a police raid at their home.

The Cramers' lawsuit says the incident began when a Nationwide insurance agent visiting their home for a property damage claim Oct. 5 photographed the hibiscus plants in their back yard and sent them to police.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Butler County Court, alleges Nationwide agent Jonathan Yeamans "intentionally photographed the flowering hibiscus plants in such a manner as not to reveal that they had flowers on them so that they would appear to resemble marijuana plants."

Audrey Cramer said three Buffalo Township police officers pulled her out of her home while she was dressed in only her underwear Oct. 7.

"I was not treated as though I was a human being. I was just something they were going to push aside," she told WPXI-TV. "I asked them again if I could put pants on and he told me no and I had to stand out on the porch."

The Cramers said they were handcuffed and forced to sit in a police car for four hours while the officers ransacked their home.

"Sometimes I think they look for a crime where it doesn't exist in order to justify their existence," Edward Cramer said.

The Cramers said they tried telling police the plants were hibiscus, but officers insisted they were marijuana.

"Why couldn't the police see what it was?" Al Lindsay, the Cramers' attorney, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Being arrested, for people like this who have no history with crime and no experience with law enforcement, this is an incredibly traumatic experience."

The couple said they never received an apology.

"I cannot understand the frame of reference that was on these police officers' minds, what were they thinking," Lindsay said.

The lawsuit, which names the police department, three officers, Nationwide and Yeamans, is seeking "monetary and compensatory damages" as well as attorneys' fees and court costs.

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