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  • Staff file photo by Don Himsel David Orde
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel^David Orde appeared in Nashua District Court Wednesday, August 13 2008.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010

8. David Orde’s marijuana case

It was a story that dripped irony: A man honored in his community for growing things that people like to consume faced jail time for growing something that people like to consume illegally.

But it was also a story that touched a lot nerves, including society’s legal priorities, privacy versus public safety and the best way to deal with drug use.

From a pragmatic point of view, the case of Lull Farm owner David Orde fizzled out in late November, when the state Supreme Court said Hollis police had no legal right to be in the part of Orde’s house where more than a dozen marijuana plants were found growing in pots, and therefore police couldn’t use them in evidence to prosecute him. The case was dropped.

But during its 17-month run, the case created impassioned debate, both in favor of Hollis police for their vigilance and in favor of Orde, who has long been prominent in Hollis. The latter support was most visible in the “Support Farmer Dave” bumper stickers that often accompanied Lull Farm’s quirky “Eat Your View” stickers.

In a Telegraph interview, Orde said the case had turned him into an advocate, not just for legalizing marijuana and hemp – Lull Farm sells a variety of hemp products and has materials arguing, among other things, that prohibition failed for alcohol and is failing for marijuana – but also an advocate for privacy.

“The issue really wasn’t the marijuana,” Orde said. “From the word go, it was why did they walk around the house and go up on my deck? … It was worth fighting for, I think.”

Orde, 55, and his son Andrew, then 19, were arrested on the felony marijuana-growing charges on July 29, 2008, after Hollis police officer Angel Corrado discovered the plants while trying to serve Orde with a complaint for failing to license his dog.

No one answered the door at their Blood Road home, so Corrado walked across the lawn, through a gap in a lilac hedge and onto a side deck, where he spotted 16 marijuana plants growing in pots. Orde freely admitted the plants were his, grown for his personal use, and police subsequently got a warrant and searched the house.

Andrew Orde negotiated a guilty plea to a misdemeanor, but his father fought the case, admitted that the plants were his and that he smoked marijuana, fighting against police behavior.

David Orde was convicted and sentenced to serve 60 days in jail on charges of manufacturing marijuana, but stayed free on bail pending appeal.

On Nov. 30, the state Supreme Court ruled 4-1 that a hedgerow blocking the deck from view made it private property that couldn’t be searched without a warrant.

“We have previously recognized that certain property surrounding a home, often described as curtilage, deserves the same protection against unreasonable searches and seizures as the home itself,” the court wrote.

David Orde said he spent roughly $150,000 defending himself in the case.

– DAVID BROOKS