Couple Arrested when Police Confuse Hibiscus for Cannabis Sues Police

The Nationawide Mutual insurance agent thought the plants were weed and sent the photographs to the police.

Couple Arrested Over Hibiscus Sues Police

BUFFALO TOWNSHIP, Pa. – Well, they say common sense isn’t common, and the police department in a Pennsylvania town proved it when they arrested an elderly couple for growing hibiscus flowers in their backyard. The bright Buffalo Township Police Department had mistaken the flowered plants for marijuana plants after viewing photos of the flowers taken by the couple’s insurance company.

The Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company took the pictures when an agent was at the couple’s residence during a property damage appraisal after a neighbor’s tree fell onto their property. The insurance agent thought the plants were weed and sent the photographs to the police in Buffalo Township.

According to the lawsuit, police officer Jeffrey Sneddon, who said that he was a marijuana identification specialist, looked at the photos and obtained a search warrant for the couple’s residence, apparently believing the hibiscus plants were weed.

Audrey Cramer, 66 was handcuffed and placed in a hot police squad vehicle along with her husband, Edward Cramer, 69, on Oct. 7. Mrs. Cramer said that she was only half-dressed when around 12 police officers with automatic rifles arrived at her door. She was not allowed to put on her pants before police handcuffed her and put her in the police vehicle, telling reporters “I was not treated as though I was a human being.” The couple repeatedly told police that they were making a mistake, that the plants were hibiscus and indicating that they were blooming to officers.

Police realized after several hours that they were mistaken and released the couple. They still seized the offensive tropical flowers, even after acknowledging they were not marijuana plants. Three weeks, later, the couple received a cancelation notice from the insurance company, citing the police raid and seizure. The couple is suing the police department and insurance company for false imprisonment, invasion of privacy, excessive force and emotional distress.

The Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company had no comment. The finest at the Buffalo Township Police Department also had no comment.

Niko Mann is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles, California.

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