ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The St. Johns County husband and wife arrested for growing marijuana in their St. Augustine rental home last month have filed a lawsuit against the county because they said they've been denied access to their belongings ever since.
Deputies raided Scott and Marsha Yandell's house on Feb. 11, confiscating dozens of marijuana plants, as well as other cultivating devices. The couple told News4Jax they were within their rights to grow pot, because they have an OK from their physician for medical marijuana.
The Yandells said they haven't been able to go in the house to get their belongings and pet fish because they said the property has been condemned. The Yandells, who were arrested but have not been formally charged by the State Attorney's office, said the Sheriff's Office performed the raid illegally.
"I do firmly believe that we were 100 percent lawful and 100 percent within our rights under the doctrine of medical necessity, and the statutes make it real clear that we have rights to alternative therapies if you find them beneficial," Scott Yandell said.
Scott Yandell said he has every right to alternative therapy, and that therapy was in the form of medical marijuana. He said he suffers from chronic pain from slipped discs, and his wife has fibromyalgia and spinal stenosis.
"Our whole lives have been turned upside down, and we don't have access to medicine and we've been fired by our current physician since all of this has happened, and our physician was aware of our use of cannabis as medicine," Marsha Yandell said.
The Yandells said they want the public to know they thought they were within their legal rights, and they are ready to fight the charges in court.
"We have a specific statute, which is 456.41, which says that anybody can use a medicine that would be deemed effective for their treatment as long as it's agreed on by their practitioner. It doesn't have to be prescribed," said Chris Ralph, the couple's legal adviser.
Sheriff's deputies said they found 40 pounds of marijuana and that the Yandells aren't being allowed back in the house because they violated the terms of the lease with the homeowner.
Scott Yandell said he disputes that deputies found 40 pounds of marijuana in the home. He said according to the inventory report they found 12 pounds of cannabis clippings and 20 roots in the garage. He said the roots are from the couple's aquaponic garden and are actually green pepper and vegetable roots.
He said the cannabis clippings that were found contain nearly undetectable levels of THC.
Police also found 13 black jars with 509 grams of marijuana. Scott Yandell said the black jars are used for curing the final flowers before extracting the medicine.
County officials condemned the property shortly after the raid because of compressed air tanks and flammable items the couple was using to grow the pot.
"Because the doctor prescribed it, doesn't mean they are authorized to operate a marijuana grow operation, and that is a stretch in the least," St. Johns County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Chuck Mulligan said. "There is no statute that tells anyone they can do that."