February snow helped Yelm police find an illegal marijuana grow operation this week.
Yelm police arrested two people and seized 68 marijuana plants from a home in the 16500 block of Rainier View Drive Southeast on Monday.
According to Police Chief Todd Stancil, a Yelm police officer lives near the home and for the past nine to 10 months had occasionally smelled marijuana in the vicinity while walking in the neighborhood.
About a month ago, the officer was contacted by a neighbor who said they also smelled marijuana in the vicinity, consistent with what the officer was smelling.
On Feb. 9, the officer smelled marijuana while on patrol. It had recently snowed, and the officer drove through the neighborhood looking for houses with unusually little snow on their roofs.
He reportedly found a house with an abnormal amount of snow melted off the southeast portion of the roof, suggesting grow lights were in use inside. The officer reportedly smelled marijuana in the area.
The officer looked up the license plates of the cars in the driveway and found that the owners of both vehicles were convicted felons for drug charges.
The officer attempted to contact the homeowners that night, but no one answered. He tried again 9 p.m. the next night and a man answered the door. The residence reportedly smelled strongly of marijuana.
David J. Rodgers, 52, reportedly told police he had just smoked marijuana, and initially denied he was growing marijuana. He reportedly told police both he and his wife, Mary E. Parker, 55, had prescriptions to grow medical marijuana. Under state law, medical marijuana patients are permitted to grow up to 15 plants. Rodgers reportedly told police he and his wife were growing 30 marijuana plants in their house — 15 for each of them.
The officer asked to see their medical marijuana licenses and Rodgers’ license was reportedly expired. Because he had already said there were 30 plants in the house, police had probable cause to search the residence and obtained a telephonic search warrant, Stancil said.
Police found two separate grow operations in the garage. The plants were separated by maturity. One room contained 39 medium-sized marijuana plants. The second room had 44 large, mature plants.
Sixty-eight of the plants were cut and taken as evidence; 15 plants were left, as Parker had a valid medical marijuana license.
Rodgers reportedly said he was unaware the smaller plants counted toward the 15-plant total, and that he was growing some of the plants for someone else.
Rodgers and Parker were both arrested on charges of unlawfully growing marijuana.
Stancil said the police department has encountered more youth using marijuana in the past two months. Initiative 502, which legalized possession of marijuana for people 21 and older, has made marijuana more accessible, he said.
Stancil emphasized that the initiative legalized possession and distribution under certain strict conditions — it doesn’t allow people to grow as much as they want, such as 83 plants in their garage, he said.
“If we’re going to make an example out of somebody that is still operating outside of that law, then you’re going to pay a price for it,” Stancil said. “Not following the law allows this type of drug to get into the hands of people who shouldn’t have it, in particular, kids. So this is a good, significant bust for our city. There was a lot of marijuana coming out of those plants. It was obviously going somewhere, and it was obviously going somewhere illegally because nobody had the permits and licenses to sell it.”
If people have questions about the specifics of the new law, they should feel free to call the police station, he said. The phone number for the police station is 360-458-5701.