The day before he exchanged gunfire with one of the men who apparently tried to steal some of his crop, Sarich sent an eerily prescient email to state officials complaining about the robbery of local medical marijuana growers, and law enforcement's response to one in particular.
"What happened to Mike Howard could happen to me or any other patient in Washington as long as we can't trust the police to do their jobs," wrote Sarich.
Last Tuesday, police arrived at Michael Shane Howard's home in Orting to find the 38-year-old medical marijuana patient suffering from a severe head wound. He'd been beaten with a blunt object after finding a thief attempting to break into the shed where he stored his plants.
According to Pierce County Sheriff's Department spokesman Ed Troyer, Howard declined to provide the details of his marijuana growing. He died on Saturday.
Howard's roommate now says that the cops seemed more preoccupied with finding out how many plants he had than they were with finding his assailant. It's a sentiment shared by the members of the Cannabis Defense Coalition, who write that in the past Howard was "constantly harassed by the Pierce County Sheriff's Office -- repeatedly stopped, arrested, incarcerated."
On the day following the attack, while Howard lay in a coma, Pierce County Sheriff's deputies returned to his home to execute a search warrant. Troyer says they confiscated 150 marijuana plants. State law allows individual medical marijuana patients to have a sixty-day supply of cannabis, which the law defines as 15 plants. The CDC says that much of Howard's supply was made up of young plants.
The state, however, doesn't distinguish between mature fruit bearing marijuana plants and the so-called "cuttings" that growers say they sometimes provide to other medical marijuana patients. And the law empowers police to investigate and arrest as they see fit.
Pierce County investigators have now classified the incident as a homicide. Thus far no suspects have been identified.
Meantime, Steve Sarich is making the same allegation about how King County deputies handled the shooting at his house--namely turning it into a marijuana bust. He intends to sue.