Elderly Pennyslvania Couple Sues Police After Cops Mistake Hibiscus Plants For Pot, Allege Excessive Force

An elderly Pennsylvania couple is suing their local police, as well as an insurance company, after a misunderstanding got the cops convinced their hibiscus plants were marijuana. The couple allege that the woman was forced to stand outside in her underwear and then sit in a hot police car for hours because of overzealous cops not knowing what they were doing, Yahoo News is reporting.

For Edward Cramer, 69, and his wife Audrey, 66, of Buffalo Township, their ordeal began thanks to a downed tree. A tree from the Cramers’ property fell onto a neighbor’s property, and the neighbor filed a claim. An adjuster from Nationwide Insurance Company came to investigate, and he or she happened to notice the Cramers’ hibiscus plants growing in the back yard. The adjuster, apparently thinking the Cramers were growing pot, took photos of the plants and sent them to the police.

A few days later squad cars showed up at the Cramers’ house.

What happened next prompted a lawsuit. The Cramers say that the cops forced Audrey, who was only half-dressed at the time, to stand out on the porch in her underwear while the police searched the house — they wouldn’t even let her put on a pair of pants, she says.

Further, Mrs. Cramer says that the police were rude to her.

“Sometimes I think they look for crime where it doesn’t exist in order to justify their existence.”

Mr. Cramer says that he repeatedly tried to explain to the cops that his plants were hibiscus, not marijuana. He also says that Buffalo Township sergeant Scott Hess didn’t believe Cramer was growing pot, but nevertheless sent samples of the plants to a lab in bags labeled “tall, green, leafy, suspected marijuana plants.”

In case you were wondering: this is what hibiscus looks like. Note the broad leaves appearing in sets of two.

Cops mistook hibiscus for marijuana.
A Pennsylvania police department mistook hibiscus for marijuana. {Image by

And this is what marijuana looks like. Note the narrow leaves in sets of five, six or seven.

A pennsylvania couple says cops don't know the difference between hisibiscus and marijuana.
Marijuana looks nothing like hibiscus. [Image by Owain lacey/Shutterstock]

If you think the plants look nothing alike, you’re not alone. Mrs. Cramer believes that the police knew full well that the couple wasn’t growing marijuana, but that they had to go through the motions in order to justify their jobs.

“Sometimes I think they look for crime where it doesn’t exist in order to justify their existence.”

Claiming false imprisonment, false arrest, invasion of privacy, excessive force, and handful of other wrongs, the couple has sued both the Buffalo Township police as well as Nationwide Insurance. It is not clear, as of this writing, how much the couple are seeking in damages.

They have not received an apology.

The Buffalo Township police have not returned repeated requests for comment.

[Featured Image by supawat bursuk/Shutterstock]