Medical marijuana case goes to court

January 13, 2005

Donna Gray, Glenwood Springs Post Independent

One of the defendants in a medical marijuana case, Gene Brownlee, appeared before District Court Judge Thomas Ossola Thursday. After a preliminary hearing on the evidence in the case, Ossola, standing in for District Court Judge James Boyd, bound Brownlee over for arraignment on Feb. 10.

Brownlee, 34; his wife, Jennifer Ryan, 21; Justin Brownlee and Drew Gillespie, both 19, were arrested at 545 Park Ave. in Rifle on Aug. 2 and charged with growing and selling marijuana.

Brownlee and Ryan told Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team officers they believed they were permitted to grow it because Brownlee has terminal cancer.

Justin Brownlee will be arraigned Jan. 27. Gillespie entered a plea of guilty on a charge of cultivating marijuana. Ryan pleaded not guilty to the same charge. A jury trial is set for April 5, 6, 7 and 12.

Gene Brownlee told arresting officers he could grow pot legally because he has terminal cancer. Under the Medical Marijuana Registry Program, patients with a debilitating condition that marijuana may alleviate can apply to the program. Those allowed to possess marijuana can have a total of six plants, three of which can be mature. They can also possess up to 2 usable ounces of marijuana

In all, TRIDENT officers found 131 marijuana plants in the apartment.

Ryan also told police she was a registered caregiver for five patients who are allowed to use medical marijuana. But even with that many patients, Ryan was over the state limit. Brownlee and Ryan told police they never sold their marijuana to anyone without a permit.

TRIDENT officers testified during the hearing Thursday that a caretaker at the Park Avenue Apartments in Rifle was spraying for hornets on July 30 and smelled a 'chemical odor' coming from a clothes dryer vent. Greg Little called the owner of the complex, who asked him to check the apartment. Little entered and found marijuana plants growing inside.

TRIDENT staked out the apartment for three days and made the arrests Aug. 2.

After hearing closing statements from Brownlee's attorney, public defender Jamie Roth, and deputy district attorney Jeff Cheney, Ossola said probable cause for a criminal act had been demonstrated and Brownlee could be bound over for trial.



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