Tel Aviv Court Slams Police for Arresting Pot-growing Cancer Patient

The suspect, 48, who undergoes chemotherapy and growing marijuana for own use, spends the night in jail.

Medical marijuana plants (illustrative)
Richard Vogel/AP

An Israeli court criticized the police Wednesday for their heavy-handed approach to a cancer patient they arrested for growing marijuana in his own home.

The man, 48, was detained Tuesday, following police suspicions that he was growing marijuana in flowerpots at his home in Rishon Letzion, south of Tel Aviv. As well as having cancer, the man had previously undergone three catheterization procedures and suffered a stroke.

Altogether, the police said the dirt and marijuana plants weighed 33 kilograms (about 73 pounds) – although presumably a lot of that was soil. The seized substance could have produced a few dozen grams of tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana, they added.

The suspect showed police documents confirming his medical condition and doctors’ recommendations that he use medical marijuana to relieve his pain from the chemotherapy. However, he had yet to receive final approval to buy medical marijuana, which is a complicated procedure that takes a long time to authorize.

Police officers were not convinced by the evidence about his condition, and took the man to the station for further questioning. At a later stage on Tuesday, he was arrested.

After spending a night behind bars, he was brought before Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, where the police sought to extend his detention by six days. However, Judge Ronit Poznanski-Katz released him with restrictions, stressing in her ruling that the documents proved the man’s “complicated condition” and his defense that he was growing marijuana for his own use, to alleviate his suffering.

The judge wrote that the police would have been wiser to behave differently in the matter.

Theoretically, rather than sending him through such an onerous procedure, the police could have confiscated any unlawful possessions and ordered that the man remain under house arrest for up to five days, for example. Suggesting that he stay in prison for six days, while undergoing chemotherapy, was clearly not the wisest course, in the judge’s view.

The police representative at the hearing said they would appeal the judge’s decision.