Neal Robert Buell, 49, pleaded guilty to the class-six felony and to possession of paraphernalia – a class-one misdemeanor – at his change of plea hearing March 2.
Detectives from the Department of Public Safety initially discovered about 120 small marijuana plants consistent of those used for medicinal purposes after they conducted an aerial recognizance mission Sept. 2, 2010, over Buell’s residence south of Pima on Cluff Ranch Road.
Buell called the DPS district office in Sierra Vista and requested to speak with an officer because he noticed the helicopter flying over his house.
After receiving a search warrant for Buell’s house, detectives interviewed the suspect and began retrieving and cataloguing the numerous cannabis plants. According to a DPS report, Buell was “extremely cooperative and would explain to (a detective) the various types of marijuana plants he was growing.”
Buell allegedly told the detectives he grew the cannabis for himself and his 94-year-old father. He also grew a number of plants for a friend of his at a secondary location near his house and exported the remaining pot to Oregon, where he allegedly has a license to grow medical marijuana. He said he receives $500 per pound for the marijuana in Oregon. The detectives kept a few plants as evidence and destroyed the rest at the request of the Graham County Attorney’s office.
Arizona voters passed Proposition 203, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, with slightly more than 50-percent of the vote Nov. 2, 2010. The act will allow patients to cultivate medical marijuana if the patient lives 25 miles or further from a medical marijuana dispensary. It will also allow caregivers to cultivate cannabis for up to five patients.
However, Buell was growing medical marijuana two months prior to the act’s passing. Additionally, the act will not go into effect until April, and qualifying patients and caregivers must be registered with the state and possess an identification card. Medical marijuana identification cards for patients will cost $160 for the initial card and renewals, and caregiver identification cards will cost $200, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Buell’s plant number exceeded the allowable amount for either patient or caregiver growth, and exportation of cannabis is not allowed. The number of plants grown could possibly have been allowable if Buell was a cultivator for a dispensary, however, a cultivation location site located in an unincorporated area of the county must be approved by the Graham County Board of Supervisors. Because applications have not yet been accepted by the ADHS, Buell is not licensed or authorized by the county to have a cultivation location. Attempted production of marijuana is a class-six felony and would exempt Buell from being eligible to apply to become a cultivator.
While Buell is guaranteed to be placed on probation for two years, all other terms of sentencing are left to the discretion of the court. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 11 at 8:30 a.m.
via : Eastern Arizona Courier
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