Police bust pot growers
NORTH BRANCH TWP. — It’s been a year since medical patients have been able to get a card from the state allowing them to possess small amounts of marijuana for pain, but Lapeer County Sheriff Ron Kalanquin says there are still people who have it for all the old fashioned reasons. Two traffic arrests early last month led to the seizure of $1.5 million worth of marijuana plants at two separate growing operations, a 2003 Jaguar and a North Branch Township home.
Kalanquin announced Thursday that separate traffic stops the first week of April led to the arrest of David W. Westcott, 25, of Orion, and Olen D. Rush, 49, of North Branch, on a variety of charges. Kalanquin said he delayed announcing the arrests because his deputies were still investigating associates of the pair.
Noting the state’s medical marijuana statute allows properly documented caregivers to have up to 72 plants in their possession and properly documented patients can have up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana on their possession, Kalanquin said the two arrested men were going far beyond that. He said the two “had growing operations in their houses.”
The sheriff said Deputy Pat Bush found a half-pound of marijuana in Westcott’s Jaguar following a traffic stop April 2 on M-21 at Lake Pleasant Road. Westcott was initially charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and his car was seized and his bond was set at $50,000.
Westcott was turned over to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, which was seeking him on misdemeanor warrants, following his second court appearance April 5. Two days later an Oakland County Sheriff’s deputy who lives in North Branch told Det./Sgt. Jason Parks that his neighbor had rented a house on Lake Pleasant Road to a man from Orion in February and now the neighbor was concerned because the windows were covered up and a strange smell was coming from the home’s vent system.
By the time Lapeer investigators obtained a warrant to search the house, they found Westcott had been released by police in Oakland County and according to his lawyer was in drug rehab in Atlanta, Ga. Kalanquin said deputies searching the Lake Pleasant Road home, which had been rented to Westcott, found 626 marijuana plants and growing equipment in four rooms of the house, but no furniture.
The day after searching Westcott’s rented home, Deputy Jimmy White tried to stop a white pickup driven by Rush. Rush, said Kalanquin, fled to his Snoblin Road tri-level house, where White ran him down on foot and arrested him for fleeing and eluding. Rush, said Kalanquin, was being sought on warrants for unpaid traffic fines and was also charged with driving on a suspended license.
Kalanquin said in the process of the arrest, White smelled marijuana and saw plants in Rush’s house. Deputies later executed a search warrant and found 152 marijuana plants in the home.
Kalanquin said each marijuana plant is worth an estimated $2,000, making the two seizures worth $1.55 million. He said his office will be putting Wescott’s car up for auction in about two weeks and plans to seize the equity value of Rush’s house.
He said his two deputies “did a fantastic job.”
Kalanquin said illegal possession of up to 200 plants is punishable by up to seven years in prison and possession of more than 200 plants is a 15-year felony. He urged residents who see suspicious activity, like homes with all the windows sealed, to call the him at 810--664-1801.