The Department of Public Safety served a search warrant Tuesday afternoon for the cultivation of marijuana at a home where two medical marijuana patients live. Officers descended upon the residence on East Swift Trail at about 1:15 p.m. and confiscated plants, dried marijuana and paraphernalia.
Seized in the raid include 24 mature plants between six and eight feet tall and more than five pounds of marijuana product, which includes leaf clippings and stems. The actual amount of usable cannabis buds was about two pounds, according to DPS detective Lance Shupe.
It was the second DPS-led raid on the home of William Larry Hess in as many years. Hess, 44, agreed to a plea agreement in July to a stipulated term of 3.5 years in prison on charges of production of marijuana over four pounds – a class-3 felony – regarding the first raid on July 12, 2011 when officers confiscated 51 plants from his home. At that time, Hess was not in possession of a medical marijuana card. He also pleaded guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia – a class-6 felony – and possession of a dangerous drug (crystal methamphetamine) – a class-4 felony.
He and his mother, Charlene Harris, 65, both have since obtained the state-approved medical marijuana cards. Harris, who lives at the residence with Hess, faces possible charges of possession of marijuana, however, because she was in possession of more than the allowable amount through the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.
According to the AMMA, patients are only allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable cannabis every two weeks. Additionally, while patients who live more than 25 miles from a state-approved dispensary are allowed to grow up to 12 plants at a time, they must grow their own medication in a secure facility. Since no dispensaries have yet opened, every medical marijuana patient can be approved to cultivate.
Outside cultivation, as is the case at Hess' home, must be enclosed by a 10-foot-high concrete, stone or metal wall and include a 1-inch-thick metal gate, according to the AMMA rules. Detective Shupe said Hess' rock/metal wall reached a maximum height of only eight feet and was not compliant with the regulations.
"Even though a marijuana patient can have 12 plants each, they were in violation of cultivating," Shupe said.
Hess, who is scheduled to be sentenced on the previous raid Sept. 12, left the area when officers arrived and has absconded as of Wednesday morning, according to Shupe. Hess faces possible additional charges of production of marijuana, possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia. The last charge is due to a glass pipe found at the residence that authorities allege to have meth residue in it.