Medical pot grower changes plea to guilty

September 07, 2005

Timothy Mitchell, Ravalli Republic (MT)

In a plea agreement, Hamilton pot grower Tom Lanrose changed his plea to guilty for two of six felonies and received a recommended 20-year suspended sentence.

Tom and Karen Lanrose were arrested in March on drug charges after police officers searched their home and confiscated almost five pounds of marijuana, as well as evidence of a much larger growing operation. Officers discovered growing rooms in underground bunkers connected by a tunnel.

Both were charged with criminal production or manufacture of dangerous drugs, operation of a clandestine laboratory, criminal possession of precursors to dangerous drugs, criminal possession of dangerous drugs with the intent to distribute, criminal possession of dangerous drugs, and use of property subject to criminal forfeiture, all felonies and possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor.

The plea agreement dropped all but two felony charges - criminal production or manufacture of dangerous drugs and use of property subject to criminal forfeiture.

Ravalli County Chief Deputy County Attorney Geoff Mahar told the court that the state would discourage federal prosecutors from taking the case any further. But Mahar warned the court that the county could only advise and there was no guarantee that the feds would not prosecute.

If District Court Judge Jeffrey Langton accepts the plea agreement, Lanrose would be sentenced to 10 years for each charge with all time suspended, except for time served, and would be required to make a $5,000 contribution to the Ravalli County Drug Fund.

Standing before Langton, Lanrose started to explain his actions.

"I grew medical marijuana - a small number of plants - in my garage," he said.

Langton wanted to know if he was licensed to grow medical marijuana.

"I got in a helicopter crash and my back was hurting," Lanrose explained. "I put the cart before the horse and did not have the doctor's permission to grow medical marijuana for back pain."

Langton wanted to know if Lanrose had drunk or taken any drugs in the last "day or two."

Lanrose said he hadn't.

On the second charge Lanrose had attempted to enter a no-contest plea, but Mahar pointed to the plea agreement that called for a guilty plea.

After considerable communication with his attorney, Lanrose withdrew the no-contest plea and entered a guilty plea.

Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 19 at 3 p.m.

Karen Lanrose will plead to charges against her this week in District Court Judge James Haynes' court.



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