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How Buying Organic Fertilizer Can Lead to Armed DEA Agents Bursting Through Your Door

Agents followed Angela Kirking home and snooped through her garbage because of where she shopped.
 
 
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Angela Kirking, a 46-year-old face paint artist, woke up at 5am to four U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents and five cops with guns pointed, ransacking her home one morning last October. Their reasoning for the intrusion? Kirking purchased organic fertilizer from a gardening store. Kirking claims she bought fertilizer for her hibiscus plant

 Kirking purchased the 16 oz bottle of fertilizer from a store called Midwest Hydroganics, near her Will County, Illinois home. According to the DEA’s complaint for a search warrant, law enforcement had been staking out the gardening store. Prior surveillance of the store had "led to the arrests of subjects for production of cannabis sativa plants and possession of cannabis."

Charles Pelkie, director of public affairs for the state’s attorney’s office  told Huffington Post there are a total of 11 cases in Will County “based upon this type of surveillance.”  

According to a report by the local news site Patch, DEA agents followed Kirking home from the store and, hell-bent on catching her for possession of a small amount of marijuana and possibly a plant, spent a month going through her garbage and assessing her electric bills to see if they were higher than those of her neighbors. When Kirking's bills turned out to be higher than those of two neighbors, the feds and local cops decided it must mean she was  growing marijuana, because often people who grow have higher electric bills. They used the bill as evidence for a search warrant.

Kirking's attorney is fighting to get the case thrown out since the search warrant they used to enter Kirking's home never should have been granted in the first place.

During the raid authorities seized 9.3 grams of marijuana, a few glass pipes, books on marijuana cultivation and a “plant portion.” They also took her computer and a zip drive. Ultimately, law enforcement and prosecutors could only charge Kirking with a couple of misdemeanors.

The judge on the case implied during an April 4 hearing that high electric bills did not seem like grounds for a search warrant. He will decide later in the month whether to throw out the warrant and effectively kill the case against Kirking.  

Following the court date Kirking told Patch she would definitely shop at Midwest Hydroganics again.

"I'd love to," she said. "I'd love to send all my friends there to see how far they take this."

April M. Short is an associate editor at AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @AprilMShort.

 
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