Back in 2008, the state of Massachusetts legalized the medical use of cannabis, a major breakthrough for the state and the Northeast region in general. Who would have thought that almost eight years later, the state police and National Guard would be using a military-style helicopter to seize a single cannabis plant from an 81-year-old grandmother in South Amherst.
The elderly woman, Margaret Holcomb, had been growing a cannabis plant in her secluded raspberry patch as a treatment for her arthritis and glaucoma. Needless to say, her and her family were shocked when a helicopter and police officers descended onto her property to confiscate the lone plant. The raid, which took place at the end of September, took place while Margaret was out with her daughter, but her son Tim Holcomb was present when the police came knocking.
According to Mr. Holcomb, several vehicles showed up at the house just 10 minutes after the surveillance helicopter departed, including a pickup truck that was already filled with marijuana plants seized from various properties that day. The officers told Holcomb that as long as he didn’t demand a warrant, the situation wouldn’t escalate to criminal charges, and would simply end with the removal of the plant.
Although Margaret Holcomb planned to utilize her cannabis plant to treat her glaucoma and arthritis, she does not have a medical card allowing her to grow or possess cannabis. Regardless of this, the grandmother feels that her civil rights were violated, and is prepared to fight back in order to get her much needed medical treatment. “I’m prepared to take actions if I need to,” she said. “I don’t picture them out here and putting an 81-year-old woman in jail.”
That day, the state police were locating and removing unlawful cannabis plants throughout the Amherst and Northampton area, confiscating a total of 44 plants including the one seized from Holcomb. According to state police spokesman David Procopio, none of the property owners were charged with a crime for having marijuana crops.
Though Holcomb could deicide to try and obtain a medical cannabis card, she fears the difficulty of getting a doctor to sign off on it, as well as the cost of medical marijuana from the only dispensary in her county. Her son has questioned the intention of the raid, citing that the motivation seems to be preventing patients from self-medicating, and in turn protecting the lucrative medical marijuana market.
As for the 81-year-old grandmother, she is in contact with a criminal lawyer and plans to start growing her own medical treatment next year. She knows the risks of growing another cannabis plant, but her age and medical problems have her wondering whether the police have the gall to try and confiscate her medication again.