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Linda Thomas
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A superior court judge in Washington ordered that property seized during a raid of a medical marijuana user's Colfax home be returned to him after a criminal case against him was dismissed last week. This photo shows items that were returned to him this week, though he claims more valuable plants were destroyed. (Michael Adam Assenberg photo)

Medical marijuana advocate to sue Washington for $6 million

A medical marijuana advocate plans to sue the State of Washington for $6 million after property was seized during an illegal raid on his home.

Michael Adam Assenberg, who was arrested in May of 2011 for growing and distributing medicinal marijuana, is on a roll in his battle with authorities.

Last month the Whitman County prosecutor dismissed charges against him citing a new interpretation of medical marijuana laws in Washington state.

Earlier this week, a superior court judge ordered that all property seized during a raid of his Colfax home be returned to him.

For Assenberg, challenging the courts to maintain the rights of medical marijuana users and distributors is nothing compared to what he went through 18 years ago.

He was a security guard for a company in Riverside, California - guarding a place called the Minnesota Mining Company.

"Some people tried to steal some dynamite. I got in the way of their theft and was hit in the back with a baseball bat," he says.

He fell 15 feet off a railroad bridge into a dry riverbed full of boulders.

"I never lost consciousness. I waited for the suspects to leave as if they killed me. Then I tried to stand up and could not feel anything from the bellybutton on down. I ended up crawling up a 45 degree embankment on my hands and elbows, and the police estimated I crawled about 2.5 miles," Assenberg says.

The next thing he remembers is waking up in a hospital, hearing that he had nine broken bones in his spine and would probably never walk again.

Seven years after the attack, Assenberg was walking again but was also having dozens of seizures every day.

"One day after having seven seizures, one right after another, I decided 'Lord, I'm ready to come home' and took one of my serrated steak knives and felt my rib cage really carefully and placed the knife in my heart three times to end my life," he says. "I died once in the ambulance and once on the operating table."

Somehow, he made it through.

After that low point, having tried "everything known to man" to ease his pain, he started using medical marijuana regularly after 2004. Without it "every day is a living hell" he says.

In January of 2011, Assenberg started a medical marijuana business called Compassion for Patients. A few months after that police arrested him for selling narcotics.

"They assumed when they went to my house there would be thousands of dollars in cash and pounds of pot," he says. "They found $90 and seven ounces of marijuana."

Authorities also found 82 immature marijuana plants that were seized and taken out of their containers, destroying them.

"These were strains I worked on for years that I can't replace," he says.

Assenberg says he was growing the plants for distribution to people with medical marijuana cards as a licensed dispensary for the State of Washington, but officials said the state law said a medical marijuana provider could only have one patient at a time. Assenberg says he had one patient and his wife, who was also licensed, had one patient.

The case is finally settled, with the prosecutor asking that charges be dismissed, and Whitman County Superior Court Judge David Frazier siding with Assenberg.

It's not over for him. Assenberg says there's a "bigger issue here."

"I see my attorney Friday to start a $6 million civil suit against the Quad City Drug Task Force, Whitman County and the State of Washington for violating my rights under state law," he says.

"Law enforcement does not want marijuana to go to the people it needs to go to. They're taught that this is illegal no matter what, and they're going to enforce it no matter what we the people say."

By LINDA THOMAS

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About Linda
Linda is the morning news anchor and features reporter for KIRO Radio. This is her local news blog, with an emphasis on social media, technology, Northwest companies, education, parenting, and anything else that grabs her attention.

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