Family’s home a pot den for kids, affidavit alleges
A Grand Junction man faces decades of possible prison time after admitting in an arrest warrant affidavit to routinely providing marijuana for two of his daughters, ages 6 and 7, while smoking the drug with the children.
Jack Dalton Duke, 27, is being held at Mesa County Jail on $500,000 bond after his arrest Friday on suspicion of two counts of distribution of marijuana to a child under 15, two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, child abuse and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.
Duke’s case is the first Mesa County prosecution under harsher penalties enacted in May by Gov. Bill Ritter, which call for mandatory prison time in cases of distribution of drugs to minors, Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said.
Duke faces a mandatory minimum 48 years in prison if convicted on the distribution charges, in addition to habitual criminal charges, Rubinstein said.
According to the arrest affidavit, Western Colorado Drug Task Force officers opened an investigation after Duke’s 6-year-old daughter was caught in a bathroom at a local elementary school trying to start a fire with a lighter and toilet paper. Interviewed by the school’s principal, the girl said she “smokes weed” with her dad when she doesn’t feel good, explaining she was taught to inhale a certain way when her dad “blows smoke in her face.”
She described a process of taking deep breaths, holding her breath before she exhaled while making a motions with her hands, “as if wafting the weed smoke into her nose and mouth,” the affidavit said.
“I found it remarkable how well (girl) was able to describe the process of smoking marijuana,” a Task Force officer wrote in the affidavit.
The girl then drew a picture for the principal, depicting who she said was her father and herself with a “weed pipe” and a “bag.”
“She also drew the smoke from the pipe, in the picture,” the affidavit said.
That same day, the girl and her sisters, ages 7, 3 and 19 months, were placed into custody of the Mesa County Department of Human Services, which turned them over to grandparents. The children lived with Duke and their mother at the same Grand Junction home.
When contacted by police at the home, the children’s mother said she and her husband frequently smoke marijuana, but neither had a medical registry card. She said she never smoked with her children, but answered “not that I know of” when asked if her husband did, the affidavit said.
The woman allowed officers inside to search the home, where a small amount of marijuana was recovered, in addition to a digital scale and two bongs. Officers noted poor living conditions: Large piles of clothing sitting on a couch and a single bed in one room for the children, “with no sheets, boxes of items stacked all around the bed and dirty pillows on the bed,” the affidavit said.
A 6-foot boa constrictor snake was found in a cage next to the bed in the children’s room, where all four children slept.
“There was very little edible food in the refrigerator,” an officer wrote.
During another, unrelated investigation, authorities learned Duke’s 7-year-old daughter said she had taken “a couple hits” from her dad’s “big cigarette.”
Authorities took hair and urine samples from Duke’s 6- and 7 year-old daughters to confirm marijuana use.
When interviewed Sept. 30, Duke told authorities he had used marijuana since he was 4 and more recently used it to cope with “bad things” that had happened to him. Duke explained he couldn’t get a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana for the purposes of getting a medical card, the affidavit said.
Duke articulated to an investigator his belief that marijuana was not a drug but had medicinal uses and that he smoked it daily.
“Jack explained to me that marijuana assisted him to do better in school, and assisted him in getting out of special ed.,” the affidavit said.
He initially denied allowing his children to use it but later changed his story, first acknowledging he had blown smoke into the face of his 6-year-old daughter once, the affidavit said.
Duke later said he allowed the girl to use it for the past two years because she was throwing up.
“Jack advised that he never allows (girl) to smoke marijuana before going to school,” the affidavit said. “Only before she goes to bed or during the day when she gets sick. Jack advised he has blown marijuana in (girl’s) face twice in the last two months.”
He said he had allowed the girl to smoke from the pipe in the past.
Duke said he assisted his 7-year-old daughter, loading a pipe for her and lighting it, “as she has problems manipulating the lighter and the pipe,” the affidavit said.
“He advised (girl) likes to smoke marijuana,” the affidavit said.