the war on drugs.... Helicopters, multiple vehicles and officers to cut down and confiscate ten marijuana plants. Now we're thinkin'....We need to reassess our priorities. Brilliant use of state resources... http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/09/no-warrant_state_police_raid_o.html WENDELL — Black surveillance helicopters have been buzzing the state's western hilltowns in recent weeks, and the reason for their presence is no secret — they are looking for marijuana plants during harvest time. On Sept. 13, Wendell residents Patti Scutari and Francesco "Apollo" Compagnone experienced the operation first-hand. Around 3:30 p.m., moments after a low-altitude flyover, five men showed up at their organic garden unannounced, with no search warrant, and confiscated 10 full-budded medical marijuana plants, the couple said. Although one man said he was with the Massachusetts State Police, the group issued no paperwork before driving away with the harvest, and neither Scutari nor Compagnone were arrested or charged. The two are registered medical marijuana patients in Massachusetts, and said they had been lawfully growing for their personal use. Scutari is owner of the local Deja Brew Pub and Wendell Country Store, both local institutions and centers of community life. Compagnone is a yoga teacher. The long-time residents are beloved figures in this small Franklin County town, which is known for its alternative ethos. "They do so much for the community," said a cashier at Scutari's store. "Everyone is shocked." On Sunday, the two spoke to The Republican at Compagnone's home, where the raid occurred. Scutari said she had been working at her office when she saw and heard the helicopters over Wendell Center. She grabbed her medical marijuana card, called Compagnone, and headed for his house. As the two stood in the garden, which is surrounded by an 8-foot fence and not visible from the road, five men let themselves in to the gated enclave. One of them said the words "state police" before ordering three others wearing jeans, T-shirts and baseball caps to cut down the plants, said Scutari. Scutari said a second apparent officer, who pointed to his badge, told the couple "we're here to seize the illegal plants in your yard." When she asked for a search warrant, she was told "a warrant is not needed" and that "we're not here to arrest or prosecute you — we're just here to cut those illegal plants in your backyard." "These plants are no longer yours; they now belong to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts." When Scutari told the men they "have no illegal plants" and are growing lawfully, she was told the plants are fair game because "they are growing in plain sight." Scutari said they might be visible to people in a helicopter, but not to anyone else. Compagnone said he verbally confronted the men to no avail. The men cut 10 mature plants to the ground. The raiders wrapped them carefully and drove away with the bundles, he said. Their vehicles included a black pickup truck, a silver SUV and dark-colored sedan. "It was our medicine," said Compagnone. "And we grow it outdoors in the sunshine because plants have living energy. We're not interested in hydroponic products from a dispensary." Scutari said she likes to juice the leaves to make medicinal products, and that fresh green leaves are not available at dispensaries. She said the raiders probably knew that many organic, outdoor growers harvest on the full moon, and staged their operation three days ahead of the lunar event. "I asked them if I could just keep a few of the plant tops, to temporarily sustain us," she said. "And they said, 'these plants are no longer yours; they now belong to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts." Sen. Rosenberg: Plants must be behind lock and key A spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police said Monday that the law enforcement agency takes part in "marijuana eradication measures," but was not able to immediately confirm involvement in the Wendell raid. He said state police "usually use National Guard helicopters" for such operations, and promised to try to find more specific information about the incident. A spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday morning. In July, it was reported that helicopter operations with DEA involvement eradicated hundreds of plants in scattered locations across the island of Martha's Vineyard. State Sen. President Stan Rosenberg, in an email to some Wendell residents, tacitly confirmed the involvement of State Police, but said he had been informed they only targeted plants "not in an enclosed, locked facility." He said according to state law, a compliant growing facility for medical marijuana patients "may include a greenhouse, room or closet as long as it is equipped with locks or other security devices." He said a ballot measure that would legalize marijuana would still not allow unsecured outdoor growing. "You may be aware that Question 4 on the November state election ballot proposes a new law legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana," Rosenberg wrote. "If the voters approve this law, it would not directly change the present medical marijuana law, but it would allow cultivating up to 6 marijuana plants for personal use, with no more than 12 cultivated on the premises at once." Rosenberg said Question 4 would still prohibit plants from being "visible from a public place without the use of binoculars, aircraft or other optical aids" and from being cultivated or processed "outside of an area that is equipped with a lock or other security device." It would require a person to secure marijuana and marijuana products that exceed one ounce within the person's place of residence with a lock. Wendell Police Chief Ed Chase told the Montague Reporter, which first reported the incident, that local police "had not been involved in any way" and had not been notified of the operation. Chase could not be reached for comment Monday. Mary Carey, a spokeswoman for Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, said that Sullivan had "no comment" and referred all inquiries to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. She would not say if Sullivan had any prior knowledge of a marijuana eradication operation in the area, or confirm State Police involvement in the Wendell operation. Massachusetts voters approved medical marijuana in 2012. In 2015, the state's public health department issued rules allowing registered patients to "conduct limited cultivation at their primary residence." Patients may grow enough for a 60-day supply. The regulations do not define the number of plants, only saying they should be "no more than what is necessary to meet the patient's individual needs." The rules further state the marijuana should be in "an enclosed, locked area not visible to the public at the patient's or caregiver's primary residence," but do not specifically forbid outdoor growing. Scutari told The Republican that the gate to the high-walled yard and garden tends to be unlocked when Compagnone is home, but locked when he leaves the house. She said while the men would not identify themselves during the Wendell raid, the group's apparent leader, at her insistence, issued a state police business card at the end of the operation, which took about 45 minutes. "But we don't want this to be about individual officers," she told The Republican. "We want to know who sent these men. We want someone to take responsibility. Why are they wasting taxpayer money to take 10 plants from two medical marijuana patients in Wendell?" Community rallies behind Scutari and Compagnone The couple have received strong local support, according to the Montague newspaper. The Wendell Selectboard on Wednesday issued a letter to Attorney General Maura Healey stating their "displeasure, if not outrage with this conduct," and describing the confiscation as "over-zealous, discriminatory, illegal and inhumane." The letter questioned spending state dollars on such operations "while the opioid epidemic runs rampant in Franklin County with funding for treatment and prevention falling woefully short." The board called upon Healey to investigate, to confirm the involvement of Massachusetts State Police and to clarify procedures, and requested "if there were in fact any breaches of approved procedure" that the plants be returned to the homeowner. Compagnone on Sunday said the two live a simple life off the power grid. He gave a tour of his home, a former decrepit barn that he transformed into a self-sufficient and nook-filled haven using recycled building materials and hand tools. "I came to America from Italy as a young child," he said. "Everything here is built by hand. The stained glass window came from a church in Cambridge. The pieces of marble floor were from an old bank. We live by candlelight. My hot water system is powered by wood. I bought this place 35 years ago, and at the time, it was almost falling down. It was the site of a former stagecoach stop." He said that Scutari is a cancer survivor, that he suffered a spinal injury long ago, and that the two use their plants to manage and heal their conditions. The two said helicopters have spooked horses and invaded privacy in surrounding towns, including Shutesbury and New Salem, and that there had reportedly been other raids. "We put up with this every year around here," said Scutari. "It's all about the money," added Compagnone, who said he believes state-sanctioned marijuana dispensaries are run by the politically well-connected. "They don't want people to grow their own."