By Nicholas Grube
Triplicate staff writer
The seized $700,000 of marijuana after an alert deputy smelled the weed emanating from a residence on Lake Earl Drive Wednesday.
Twenty-two year old Jeff Burnham was arrested on felony charges of cultivating marijuana and possession for sale for his operation which included 17 high-intensity lamps, above ground growing boxes and a hydroponics growing system.
According to a Sheriff's Office press release, Deputy Carl Berry was investigating a prowler in Burnham's neighborhood when he heard industrial-sized exhaust fans and caught a whiff of a pungent odor coming out of Burnham's house.
"It was obvious what it was," Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Steve Morris said.
"Mr. Burnham did not have a valid Proposition 215 medical marijuana card ... so he was in violation," he said.
Even if Burnham did have valid paperwork, his garden would not be in compliance, Morris said. Legal marijuana gardens for people who are registered 215 cardholders can have up to 99 plants in a 10-by10-foot area. Burnham's operation more than quadrupled this limit. His 441 plants took up enough space to fill a two-car garage and a bedroom in his home.
"There's so very many of these growers out there now," Morris said of people growing more than the law permits. "Whether this guy's got a 215 card or not, it's illegal."
However, if Burnham owned a 215 card and was slightly over the allowable marijuana limit, law enforcement would have ignored it or simply written him a ticket for non-compliance.
"The people who actually have a medical marijuana card, we don't want to hassle them," Morris said. "If they follow the rules that are outlined, then we're compassionate in that way."
The investigation is ongoing, and Morris said that he believes there were others involved in Burnham's indoor growing operation.