04/15/2014 01:49 EDT | Updated 06/15/2014 05:59 EDT

Man Loses $200K Lawsuit For Stolen Pot Plants

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A man who sued his insurance company for over $200,000 in compensation for his stolen marijuana plants has had to settle for $11,000 after a Hamilton justice of the peace dismissed his claim for a second time.

Rockwood, Ont. man Darren Stewart’s 11 medical marijuana plants were stolen just prior to harvest on two separate occasions in 2009 and 2011, court documents released last month show. Stewart claimed the loss of the plants on his homeowners’ insurance policy with TD General Insurance to the tune of $50,000 total for replacement.

But that was way more than TD was willing to pay. The company maintained that under his plan, the plants were classified as “landscaping” — and so it would pay “a maximum of $1,000 for any one tree, shrub or plant including debris removal,” the policy reads. “You are insured against loss caused by fire, lightning, explosion, impact by aircraft or land vehicle, riot, vandalism or malicious acts, theft or attempted theft.” That meant that Stewart was entitled to $11,000 total.

Stewart sued TD on two separate occasions for $45,000, which he claimed was the full value of the plants under his policy’s personal property provision. He was also seeking $180,000 for breach of contract and mental and physical suffering because of the thefts.

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Appeals dismissed

Stewart has a license to grow medicinal marijuana for his own use. According to court documents, a 1997 motor vehicle accident has left him with “severe and permanent injuries.”

“As a consequence of his injuries, he suffered, and continues to suffer, physical disabilities and severe and intractable pain,” court documents read.

Stewart's last appeal on the case was dismissed because the plants do not constitute personal property under the strict terms of his policy, a decision released last month reads. “The fact that marijuana plants might be usual to the ownership of Mr. Stewart’s dwelling because he is an authorized cultivator or marijuana is beside the point,” it reads.

The legal landscape for people who grow their own medicinal marijuana is murky right now. On April 1, new federal regulations came into effect that ban people from growing medicinal marijuana, even with a license.

But a Federal Court ruling on March 21 changed that — at least temporarily — and users licensed for personal production as of Sept. 30, 2013, will be able to keep growing their pot at home pending a future trial. Without the injunction, Health Canada's new laws would end the home production of medical marijuana.

Now in commercial facilities

Instead, all those using medical marijuana would have to purchase it from large-scale commercial facilities that are being set up around the country. Patients have voiced concern about the cost and the quality of the product they will be able to obtain under the new system.

Even with the temporary reprieve, however, there is still much uncertainty about the new rules for users and the new private-sector commercial marijuana production industry that could be worth more than $1 billion a year by 2024.

"It's very confusing right now, and for people like me who are thinking about this and absorbed in it all day, it's kind of hard to keep track of what's going on," said Dana Larsen, a marijuana activist and director of the non-profit group Sensible B.C., which is campaigning for a provincial referendum on marijuana decriminalization in 2014.

"For an average person … there's a ton of confusion."

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