Man Forced To Eat Pot By Cops Settles Lawsuit Against City

By Paul Fuhr 12/19/17

After finding a gram of pot in his car, Phoenix officers gave the 19-year-old man an ultimatum: eat the pot or go to jail.

Image: 
Edgar Castro
Edgar Castro (pictured above) was given the ultimatum back in September of 2016. Photo via YouTube

A Phoenix man who was forced to eat weed during a traffic stop has settled a lawsuit against the city, according to High Times. The then-19-year-old motorist, Edgar Castro, had filed a formal complaint last year, stating that the police officers gave him an ultimatum of eating the marijuana or going to jail.

“Although the victim was vindicated, it’s a bizarre and sickening case from start to finish,” High Times noted. “Worse still, it’s just one piece of the horrifically widespread issue of police brutality in the United States.”

Still, Castro’s $100,000 settlement does little to right the situation which, as High Times suggests, is very likely just the tip of the iceberg. Pulled over for speeding in September 2016, Castro was found with about a gram of weed—some of which was contained in packaging from a medical marijuana dispensary. (Court documents are unclear as to whether Castro had a medical marijuana prescription.) 

According to the lawsuit, upon discovering the marijuana, officer Jason McFadden then told the plaintiff (Castro) "to eat the marijuana or he would be going to jail. Plaintiff asked Defendant Pina [another officer on the scene] if he really had to eat the marijuana, to which Defendant Pina responded, 'yeah! You need to eat it.'"

Richard Pina, Jason McFadden and Michael Carnicle, the three first-year Phoenix police officers involved, resigned after Castro filed the complaint. “These actions are appalling, unacceptable and they are no longer members of our organization,” the police chief told KTAR News shortly after the incident. “The conduct alleged by [Castro] is contrary to everything we stand for as community servants.”

While all three of the police officers were wearing body cameras, none of the cameras were switched on or recording, KTAR reported. Castro initially hesitated at the ultimatum, asking to use his cell phone in order to record the situation.

According to the lawsuit, the unarmed Castro was told “that if he grabbed [the phone] he would be shot.” Castro complied and ate the marijuana, after which the police officers towed the vehicle and forced him to walk home, advising him, “Don’t get shot tonight.” (The lawsuit also notes that Castro later “became ill and vomited.”)

Castro’s complaint, however, quickly turned into a lawsuit against the city. The lawsuit itself stated that the police officers’ actions were “deliberate, reckless, wanton and/or involved callous indifference to [Castro’s] state and federally protected rights.” Interestingly, while the details of Castro’s case are as strange as they are maddening, it’s not even the first case of its kind in recent weeks.

For example, when police suspected one Pennsylvania couple of illegally growing marijuana plants on their property, the elderly couple was handcuffed at gunpoint. In the end, no weed was even found on their property—instead, police had confiscated hibiscus plants, having mistaken them for cannabis. Now, the couple has leveled their own lawsuit against the police—not only for their error in judgment but for the aggressive manner in which the situation was handled. 

While Castro’s lawyers originally sought $3.5 million, he settled for $100,000 in damages. It’s more than the money, Castro told High Times, as he hopes that his situation will bring similar civil rights violations to light and give rise to much-needed law enforcement policy improvements. “The officers who violated me did it because they felt like they could,” Castro said. “They felt their uniforms made it OK for them to be racist… and treat me like a second-class citizen…”

He added that “dirty cops with records of assaulting people in the worst ways imaginable should never be hired by other departments. There should be systems in place to make sure these sick individuals never carry a gun or a badge again.”

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at paulfuhr.com. You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.

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