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Sept. 15, 2011: Drug complaint filed against River Falls council member

Robert Hughes, River Falls City Council member

Robert Hughes, elected to the River Falls City Council in April 2010, has been charged with one count each of possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and illegal possession of a controlled substance (prescription pills). All three are misdemeanors. Last year Hughes, 29, led a petition drive that put a medical-marijuana-use question on the ballet for a vote in the city of River Falls.

The Pierce County district attorney's charges against Hughes stem from a police-executed search warrant in early August of the townhouse where Hughes rents.

The search warrant was obtained after a police officer delivered a City Council meeting agenda packet to the townhouse.

The officer, met at the door by a roommate of Hughes, claimed there was a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside. The officer was allowed into the townhouse. The smell was very strong, but the officer found nothing.

The officer was called away on a missing-child incident but reported his findings about the marijuana odor to the police sergeant on duty. Soon, a search warrant was drafted and approved.

A search was carried out of Hughes' 1876 Kristy Lane townhouse (Greenwood Valley subdivision). A St. Croix County Sheriff's Department dog named Doc was brought in to sniff for drugs. Hughes was not at home.

According to the complaint, officers found in Hughes's bedroom what appeared to be a glass marijuana bong, a large metal marijuana grinder, a large glass marijuana pipe, and some containers that allegedly held various amounts of marijuana and prescription pills.

Many of the drug-related items were allegedly found in a Honeywell safe with the lid open under the bed in Hughes' room.

The evidence was packaged and sent to the state crime lab for analysis.

Hughes and another roommate, Daniel Gardner, 25, moved into the townhome in May 2011.

Gardner has also been charged with two counts for marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession.

The complaint says the townhome owners, a couple, claimed they were having serious troubles with Hughes and Gardner for using marijuana and not following basic housekeeping rules.

Hughes was interviewed at the police station a few days after the search warrant. On the advice of his attorney, he refused to talk about specifics of the case.

He did say he had a prescription for one of the prescription drugs found, Tamazapan, to control anxiety.

He did not allegedly have prescriptions for other pills found in an envelope.

Last November, by a vote of 2,722 to 1,270, River Falls voters approved an advisory referendum that Hughes got on the ballot: Should the Wisconsin Legislature enact legislation allowing residents with debilitating medical conditions to acquire and possess marijuana for medical purposes if supported by their physician?

In pushing for the advisory referendum and collecting signatures to place it on the ballot, Hughes told the River Falls Journal: "This is about people with serious, serious medical conditions," adding that even when a doctor advises it, those using marijuana are treated like criminals. "When you look into those people's eyes, the last thing I would want to do is treat them like criminals."

Hughes is scheduled to make a first appearance on the three charges against him in Pierce County Circuit Court at 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 3.