Junction police comb through pot patients’ paperwork
Hundreds of records for medical marijuana patients are under scrutiny as authorities decide whether a local dispensary’s volume of valid patients justifies a grow operation with more than 1,000 marijuana plants, an enterprise still illegal under federal law.
A search warrant executed Tuesday authorized the seizure of photocopies of patients’ marijuana registry cards, as well as doctors’ recommendations and personal contact information for patients, after officers from the Grand Junction Police Department were called that same day to investigate reports of a suspicious odor seeping from a building near the offices of the U.S. Census Bureau.
No arrests have been made.
The warrant, which was signed by District Judge Thomas Deister, allowed Western Colorado Drug Task Force officers to take approximately 308 patient files, which were found in a file cabinet at 573 W. Crete Circle, unit 101.
The warrant also allowed the seizure of records and receipts, indicating payment for marijuana sales and purchases, in addition to “photographs, video and samples of the marijuana plants in the business.”
“Task Force officers are looking to go through the records present to determine if they have adequate current medical marijuana card holders present to support the presence of over 1,000 marijuana plants,” the search warrant affidavit said.
Officers counted 1,080 plants, which were at various stages of growth, from 3 inches to 2 feet tall, the affidavit said. One of the officers observed “some” of the files stored in an office area included duplicated patients.
Under Colorado’s Amendment 20, registered patients can possess up to six marijuana plants at a time, “with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants that are capable of producing a usable form of marijuana.”
The warrant was obtained after an employee with the U.S. Census Bureau, a retired Grand Junction police officer, called authorities Tuesday afternoon reporting a strong “chemical odor” seeping from the ventilation system.
The employee called the Grand Junction Fire Department, thinking there was fire, the affidavit said.
The employee said a man exited the rear of the complex, then ran back inside and locked a door behind him.
“(Employee) observed what he thought were probably grow lights inside while the door was open,” the affidavit said.
Officers said they noticed a strong odor of marijuana, standing just 10 feet from the building’s back door.
Sid Squirrell, a developer and commercial Realtor with Bray & Co., identified himself in a phone conversation with officers as the owner of the grow operation and insisted it was legal, the affidavit said.
“Squirrell went on to tell me he was growing it for ‘Natures,’ ” the affidavit said. “When he told the name he seemed like he did not know the name of the dispensary or may not have wanted to give it to me.”
Another man allowed officers inside the building and said the grow had been there since October, and they were growing for Naturals, A Wellness Center, a local medical marijuana dispensary at 624 Rae Lynn Drive.
Tony Weingartner, one of three owners for Naturals, declined comment Thursday on the situation.
According to the warrant, one of the men who greeted officers at the Crete Circle building Tuesday said he was an employee of Naturals, but was not paid, explaining he worked there “because he enjoyed it.”
Another man said he wasn’t paid by Naturals, but had done “a lot of electrical work” for Squirrell, whom Naturals’ Web page identifies as a licensed medical marijuana caregiver.
Tuesday’s search and seizure comes on the heels of a similar action last month by law enforcement on the Front Range.
Federal agents last month found 224 pot plants in the home of a suburban Denver man who said he was a medical marijuana provider, who has since been charged with possession under federal statutes.