Grand jury to take on case of medicinal pot growing

District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said Thursday that two of his deputies are presenting evidence to a Mesa County grand jury in the investigation of a local, large-scale, marijuana-grow operation.

Hautzinger didn’t identify the grand jury’s target but said the enterprise in question is “claimed to be for medical marijuana purposes under Amendment 20.”

“I asked if they (grand jury) were interested. They said they were, and the investigation is active and ongoing,” said Hautzinger, adding the panel was seated earlier this year. He declined further comment.

Since late May, Hautzinger has said he was undecided on whether criminal charges would be filed related to a March 9 raid by Western Colorado Drug Task Force Officers at a pot-grow operation owned by Sid Squirrell, a local developer and commercial Realtor with Bray & Co., who also owns the building where the grow was found at 573 W. Crete Circle.

Squirrell at the time told an officer that the marijuana, 1,080 plants at various stages of growth, was being grown for Naturals, A Wellness Center, a dispensary at 624 Rae Lynn Drive, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Task Force officers obtained a seizure warrant for photocopies of approximately 308 of Naturals’ patient files, which were found at the Crete Circle building.

Officers said in the affidavit they needed the information to help determine “who the primary caregiver is” for each patient, the affidavit said.

Squirrell was among six people acting as a primary caregiver for Naturals, while Amendment 20 identifies such a person as someone other than the patient’s physician, 18 or older, “who has significant responsibility for managing the wellbeing of a patient who has a debilitating medical condition.”

Squirrell has not returned calls and requests for comment.

While the proceedings of a grand jury are shrouded in secrecy under state law, Hautzinger said he decided to acknowledge the pot probe Thursday after he received queries about local residents being served with subpoenas to testify.

Counties with populations greater than 100,000 are required to empanel grand juries each year, according to state law.

Jurors, who meet periodically when called by prosecutors, serve up to a year, and service can be extended up to 18 months. They can issue indictments, decline indictments or issue reports.

Prosecutors are not obligated to file charges identical to a grand jury’s indictment.

Mesa County has empaneled a grand jury for the past four years, but the grand jury was given little to do. Indictments were not returned in February 2006 after an investigation into the botched investment of taxpayer dollars by a board member of the Grand Junction Rural Fire Protection District.


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