William Norman Grigg
August 26, 2011
Mary Lee Cook, an 84-year-old resident of Oak Hill, Florida, didn’t seem like the kind of person who would secretly cultivate marijuana behind her home. Yet on June 6, deputies assigned to the East Volusia County Narcotics Task Force materialized on her doorstep in response to a tip that Cook was growing the illicit weed on her property.
Diane Young, Chief of the Oak Hill Police Department, had already visited the scene. Without notifying Cook or presenting a search warrant, Young had climbed a fence and taken photographs of the offending plants.
The deputies searched Cook’s backyard and found a half-dozen desiccated pot plants. Under what is advertised as the “law,” this was sufficient evidence to justify arresting the octogenarian and seizing her property. In this case, however, the deputies destroyed the plants and dropped the charges.
It was her considerable good fortune that Cook was the Mayor of Oak Hill, a town of about 1,500 people. She had inherited that position just a few weeks earlier when her immediate predecessor, Darla Lauer, resigned in disgust and frustration. The proximate cause of Lauer’s dismay was Chief Young – the same officer who had supposedly received the “tip” about Cook’s secret marijuana garden, and had used illegal means to take photographs of the contraband.