A Buffalo Township couple’s hibiscus plants looked a bit too much like marijuana.
A couple who say they were handcuffed for hours in a police patrol car after their hibiscus plants were confused for marijuana are suing the police and an insurance company.
The story begins a month ago with a fallen tree. In Buffalo Township, Pennsylvania, a tree fell onto the property of the Cramers—a married couple in their late 60s. As the tree originated from their neighbor’s yard, the Cramers called their insurance company, Nationwide. The insurance company sent agent Jonathan Yeamans to the property to investigate the claim.
While he was in the backyard, Yeamans discreetly took photographs of some flowering hibiscus plants. He sent the photos to the police and reported that the Cramers had an illegal cannabis grow operation.
According to sources, Officer Jeffrey Sneddon of the Buffalo Township police obtained a search warrant. He, Sergeant Scott Hess and a dozen other officers arrived at the Cramer residence at noon on October 7. Audrey Cramer answered the door, partially dressed, to find herself staring down the barrels of 12 assault rifles.
Hess reportedly forced his way into the home and instructed his fellow officers to handcuff Cramer behind her back. He did not allow her to finish getting dressed. Instead, he placed her under arrest, made her stand outside for 10 minutes and then forced her to walk barefoot down her gravel driveway to a squad car.
Edward Cramer, 69, said he returned home a half-hour later to find his wife in the back of a police cruiser and officers pointing guns at him. He also was placed in the cruiser despite trying to convince the officers the plants were hibiscus, not marijuana.
“They actually ignored me,” he said. “They wouldn’t even listen. I said, ‘I can show you pictures on the internet.'”
The police did not discover any cannabis in the home or on the property. However, Hess confiscated the Cramer’s hibiscus plants, labeling them “suspected marijuana plants.”
The Cramers eventually were released without charges. They are seeking monetary and compensatory damages and court costs. Neither Buffalo Township police nor Nationwide provided comment.
From the Nationwide Insurance agent secretly taking photos of the plant to the grossly incompetent and aggressive officers who arrived at the scene. The Cramers have every reason to slam down those lawsuits. This is hardly the first time police officers have gotten overzealous and violent toward suspected cannabis growers or dealers. But honestly, even if the couple had been accused of cooking meth rather than growing weed, the kind of brutal and dehumanizing treatment they endured has absolutely no justification.