Police suspect medical marijuana grower of running a grow operation for the black market

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A Grand Junction man was arrested Friday on suspicion of running a medical marijuana-growing operation with intent to illegally sell the drugs after police officers last fall confiscated 99 plants in a greenhouse near 31 and D roads.

Toran Taulbee, 34, was arrested on a warrant on suspicion of a single felony charge of possession with intent to distribute more than 50 pounds of marijuana.

Officers with the Western Colorado Drug Task Force raided a greenhouse near an adjoining residence at 3124 D Road after obtaining a search warrant during a Sept. 15, 2017, incident.

Taulbee’s arrest warrant was signed April 19. He received a $25,000 cash bond in court Monday.

Taulbee’s attorney, Steve Laiche, said his client was not found in possession of 50 pounds of marijuana, but rather marijuana plants he was legally allowed to have.

Laiche said Taulbee has four verified medical marijuana patients and each person is allowed to have 25 plants grown for them.

Law enforcement returned two of the medical marijuana cards — cards that belonged to Taulbee and his fiancée — and told Taulbee he would not be facing criminal charges, Laiche said.

Laiche said Taulbee, a student at Colorado Mesa University, could have fled the area after his marijuana plants were seized but did not.

Several people who were at the home or located in a camper near the grow told investigators during the September raid they believed Taulbee would earn between $100,000 and $300,000 on the marijuana after it was harvested, a process which was a month to two months away, according to an arrest affidavit.

Several people told investigators they were told the marijuana was grown for medical marijuana patients, but the excess marijuana was slated for profit and they expected to be paid for work they had performed on the grow and for providing overnight security by sleeping in a camper at the site.

Taulbee told investigators he was growing the marijuana for four people for whom he had medical marijuana licenses. However, the medical marijuana documentation he showed investigators was incomplete or expired, the affidavit said.

Taulbee told investigators he expected each plant to produce a pound of marijuana that would be turned into edibles that would last his patients a year.

He told investigators he’s a full-time student without a job, but estimated his annual salary between $20,000 and $25,000 a year from student loans and scholarships. Taulbee told investigators he invested between $15,000 and $20,000 in materials, with some financial backing from others, according to the report.

Investigators asked Taulbee why he would invest most of his yearly salary to help patients without expecting any money in return.

“Taulbee said he expected his patients to reimburse his expenses for the cost of growing marijuana,” the warrant said. “Taulbee said he got it and said he knew these issues were going to come up and said he was unsure what he was going to do with 100 pounds of marijuana. He did not know where he was going to store the 100 pounds of marijuana and was fearful of being robbed with that amount.”

Officers concluded the marijuana grow was illegal because people were paid, and others believed they would be paid for their help in the grow, and profits were expected to total between $100,000 and $300,000, the warrant said.

The grow ran afoul of the law because Taulbee had 99 plants, but the paperwork provided to law enforcement did not allow him to possess 99 plants, according to the affidavit.

By: AMY HAMILTON, The Daily Sentinel

       

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