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$2.5-Million Yacht Seized With Bit of Pot Freed on $1,000 Fine

Associated Press

The $2.5-million yacht Ark Royal, seized under the tough new “zero tolerance” policy when the Coast Guard found a tiny amount of marijuana aboard, was released today after payment of a $1,000 fine.

The 133-foot boat owned by an Irvine, Calif., company was expected to leave the Key West Customs dock this afternoon, said Miami’s U.S. Customs Service spokesman Michael Sheehan.

The seizure under the zero tolerance policy had been angrily criticized by boat owners and civil libertarians, who said the penalty does not fit the crime.

The owner of the Philadelphia-based yacht, Michael Rogerson, president of the Tomima Corp., of Irvine, paid a $1,000 fine and $600 in seizure fees today and agreed not to hold the government responsible, said Sheehan.

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“The owner of the vessel petitioned the Customs Service stating that he, as the owner, was not on board, that the crew had evidently gone through some type of drug screening, and that they in fact did not smoke or drink,” said Sheehan.

The owner’s petition also noted that no one was arrested for possession of the marijuana, Sheehan said.

Earlier today, Transportation Secretary James H. Burnley IV defended the seizure of the yacht for carrying less than a teaspoon of marijuana and said the Reagan Administration will continue to enforce its toughened seizure policy.

“We’ve got a massive national problem,” Burnley said on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America.” “We’ve . . . got to get at the demand side of this problem or we’re not ever going to be able to get it under control.”

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