Police: Stolen pot was legal for its owner

A Newport Beach man who had 25 pounds of marijuana and marijuana plants stolen from his home earlier this month did have legal justification to keep them, police said.

The Spruce Avenue resident in Santa Ana Heights is protected under the California Department of Justice's legal guidelines for possessing and cultivating marijuana for medical use, said Lt. Bill Hartford.

"The individual had the appropriate issued medical marijuana paperwork and/or licensing for the amount of marijuana and marijuana plants that were in his possession," Hartford said.

The paperwork indicated he was operating a marijuana collective, police said.

The man was the victim of a daytime residential burglary Feb. 6, when thieves broke into his home and carried out boxes of the cultivated drug and plants. They were arrested shortly afterward in Santa Ana.

Police opened the boxes and discovered marijuana. When officers contacted the homeowner, he told them he was legally permitted to have it.

"If a person is acting as a primary caregiver to more than one patient, he or she may aggregate the possession and cultivation limits for each patient," the guidelines read. Under state law, a cultivator can possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana, and six mature or 12 immature plants per patient.

With criminal charges out of the question, Newport Beach city staff were initially reviewing possible civil action for violating federal and local land-use laws, said City Atty. David Hunt.

However, no further action would be needed, he said, after city officials inspected the home Thursday and said all the marijuana and tools to grow cannabis had been removed.

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