Colorado medical marijuana grower pleads guilty

October 28, 2004

Donna Gray, Glenwood Springs Post Independent

One of the defendants in a medical marijuana case pleaded guilty Thursday in Ninth District Court. Gene 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 for growing and selling marijuana.

Brownlee and Ryan told TRIDENT officers they believed they were permitted to grow it because Brownlee has terminal cancer.

At his arraignment on Thursday, Gene Brownlee was scheduled for a preliminary hearing Jan. 13. Justin Brownlee had his arraignment continued to Jan. 27.

Gillespie entered a plea of guilty on a charge of cultivating marijuana. He will be sentenced Dec. 9.

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 may be alleviated by marijuana can apply to the program. Those allowed to possess marijuana can have a total of six pot plants, three of which can be mature. They can also possess up to two usable ounces of pot.

In all, there were 131 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.

According to the arrest affidavit, Justin Brownlee, Gene Brownlee's nephew, told police he assisted in the selling of marijuana Brownlee and Ryan grew and also obtained marijuana from them for his own use.

Brownlee and Ryan told police they never sold their marijuana to anyone without a permit.

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