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Growth Industry: Cops Bust Third Palm Coast Pot Grow House in 9 Months, on Wheatfield

| November 27, 2012

15 Wheatfield Drive this afternoon. (© FlaglerLive)

It’s a cookie-cutter house like so many others in Palm Coast: one level, about 1,900 square feet, built in the earlier part of the last decade. Like most houses on Wheatfield Drive in Palm Coast, parallel to Whiteview Parkway, its lawn is neatly (and freshly) trimmed, its wooden fence blocking off the backyard well maintained, a large garbage can, stenciled with the number 15, sits next to a shrub out front. The only thing distinctive about the house is its old-fashioned analog television antenna rising from just behind the wooden fence. The house is owned by a woman in New Jersey.

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Tuesday, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office’s Narcotics Unit and the Florida Department Law Enforcement revealed that the property has been used as a marijuana-growing house, the third such grow house busted in Palm Coast in the last nine months.

Authorities arrested Jorge Rodriguez, 61, and charged him with marijuana cultivation. He faces stiffer felony penalties because there were more than 25 plants in the house. Rodriguez, a native of Puerto Rico, was arrested Monday afternoon at the house.

Initially, the Sheriff’s Office reported, Rodriguez claimed to be 51-year-old Jose Soto. After being fingerprinted in the Flagler County Inmate Facility, jail deputies discovered his true identity. He remains in the custody at the jail on $10,000.00 bond. The Federal Immigration Customs Enforcement agency also placed a hold on him, though as a native of Puerto Rico, he would presumably have American citizenship.

Detectives got an anonymous complaint that the house was being used to grow marijuana, and launched their investigation, serving a search warrant Monday. Detectives discovered two active grow rooms in the house, containing a total of 48 plants. According to the sheriff’s office, the plants, at full potential, can produce up to 96 pounds of marijuana for sale and distribution each year, yielding a street value of $86,400. Deputies dismantled the grow equipment from the residence and removed the plants. More charges are pending.

In February, the Sheriff’s Office busted a marijuana-grow house at 20 Princeton Lane in Palm Coast, where the plant count was cleverly kept at 24, one short of triggering the stiffer penalties. Louis Urra was arrested and charged with growing marijuana, but was able to reduce a felony charge to a “pre-trial intervention” contract, essentially deferring prosecution in exchange for supervision, and the payment of court and prosecution costs ($450).

In June, Kevin Fitzgerald was turned in by his wife upon her discovery that he’d been growing pot at 111 Birchwood Drive, where cops discovered an elaborate grow house with a ventilation system. He pleaded no contest to the marijuana growing charge and also got a deferred prosecution deal. His wife filed for divorce in October.

Earlier this month, Washington State and Oregon legalized the use and sale of recreational marijuana, becoming the first two states to do so in the country, while Massachusetts became the 18th state to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The medical marijuana allowance is a thin fig leaf for the the way the laws have been used, in practice–for recreational use of marijuana. Federal laws prohibiting the growing or smoking of marijuana trump local laws, however. But federal laws have not been enforced as rigorously as in the past, and in some states, such as California, marijuana is grown and smoked with growing freedom.

The drug is far less dangerous or lethal than alcohol or cigarettes: while some 80,000 deaths a year are attributed to alcohol, and 400,000 deaths a year are attributed to tobacco (in the United States), no deaths have been attributed to marijuana–not even through side effects such as cancer or heart disease.

Nevertheless, around percent of state or federal prisoners were serving time on marijuana charges in 2004, the last year for which comprehensive data were available.

Florida maintains some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country. This year, Rep. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat, introduced a proposal in the Florida House to let voters decide whether to legalize medical marijuana through a constitutional amendment. Larcenia J. Bullard, the Miami Democrat, introduced a companion measure in the Senate. The Legislature never took up the proposal.

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30 Responses for “Growth Industry: Cops Bust Third Palm Coast Pot Grow House in 9 Months, on Wheatfield”

  1. glad fly says:

    the cartels have arrived.

  2. Brian Gunn says:

    You may think a little different if you live next door and a stray bullet hits you or your child from drug dealers..that mind set is easy to have until you’ve lived next door to high end drug dealers and stray bullets hit the side of your house..even if you made weed legal, other drugs will take it’s place like meth, crack, and hallucinagenics..once you leagalize weed there is no money to be another illegal drug becomes the cash’s just the way the world works…

    • Ben Dover says:

      Their were no stray bullets fired , it was a quiet , well maintained house , someone tipped the police off or they`d of never known , don t make up stuff that didn t happen. It is crazy that a state like Florida with our perfect weather conditions for the state`s government to grow and sell the crop and make big money for road improvements , bigger schools , bigger jails , rail systems , health care , like he said they have no problem selling the two biggest killers in this country , alcohol and tobacco, thios state is as backwards and behind the times as it gets , but then look at the baffoons running our city counsel , and its easy to see why the state is the way it is

  3. Mario DiGirolamo says:

    Legalize it already!

  4. Geezer says:

    I can’t wait to see marijuana legalized and taxed nationwide.

    It is the height of hypocrisy to permit liquor stores and road houses which fuel wife-beaters, abusers,
    drunk drivers, and etc. Alcohol IS the real poison, followed by tobacco products, and you can buy them anywhere without hassle….That just ain’t right.

    Legalize Marijuana already. Outlaw liquor and cigarettes. Lets burn all smart-phones too!

    “My life was empty, forever on a down
    Until you took me, showed me around
    My life is free now, my life is clear
    I love you sweet leaf, though you can’t hear”

    -Sweet Leaf by Black Sabbath (circa 1971)

    “I didn’t inhale” -Bill Clinton

  5. Brian I agree with you on the stray bullets, but legalized marijuana is not much different then alcohol. Moonshine is illegal but still made next door.

  6. Because pot dealers are so well known for their gun battles, Brian. And coming from a place where weed is essentially legal, I think you’re wrong about weed becoming unprofitable. Dispensaries seem to be thriving.

    • Wigwam says:

      I do remember about two years ago, an attempted home invasion where the suspects were shot at by the roommate. The intended target of the home invasion was later arrested for SALE OF MARIJUANA. I thknk it was on Britany lane….where theres drugs….theres money…..theres violence. Good job FCSO. Also there was a marijuana grow hiuse that burned down in the w section years back… it. I wouldnt want that next to my house….

      [Here’s the story: “Shooting at Would-Be Burglar on Brittany Lane Now Termed an Assault, not Self-Defense.”–FL]

  7. where there’s drugs there’s money, where there’s money there’s crime

  8. Dave says:

    Dave…..No I’m dave !!! Daves not here….. I know Daves not here. Open up Man . Who’s there ? Dave…Dave who ? No no no…I’m Dave……Daves not here….No man, I’m Dave !!!!!

    • Ben Dover says:

      Lets say hi to our next contestant , Bob Roachclip! , what do you do for a living Bob , ………I make table candles ,…….. and how do you make them Bob…………I pour hot wax on a table then I set it on fire man , well that sounds like a hot item you got there Bob, now Bob for 1000 thousand dollars what is your first name………….. umm ummm ummmm ………ten seconds Bob..

  9. Jessica Diaz says:

    I have 2 kids and I for one would not want to be living next door to a pot house nor do I want to live next door to pot heads! Think everyone should get off drugs in this town and get friggen real jobs!

  10. Legal Eyez says:

    Needs be legalized. Would decrease crime percentages by large amounts. No matter what excuses you all come up with, the world would be safer if it was legal.

    Brian Gunn, the fact that you had neighbors shooting “stray” bullets at your house does not have anything to do with marijuana. Sounds like you had a bad neighbor or lived in bad area. Those drug dealers could have been dealing crack or pills or who knows what, doesn’t mean it was weed. The other drugs are the dangerous drugs and need to be dealt with.Those “other” drugs you mentioned, have already taken over. Nobody will try to legalize those, they are DANGEROUS and people know that. Marijuana is not dangerous. Not nearly as dangerous as the beer or liquor or wine you drink. If the state wants to make cents it has to have sense….

  11. rickg says:

    I think Geezer and Mario are on to something here…. What a waste of time, effort, money and lives of those who are wasting away in prison over a plant that grows naturally all over the place.

  12. Tired says:

    I understand that many want to see marijuana legalized. Until it is, the laws still need to be enforced regardless of what the public thinks. This is no different than residents giving the Code Enforcement Officers a hard time about them enforceing the code, don’t shoot the messenger.

  13. Samuel Smith says:

    The drug war brings lots of money and toys into the hands of the police, don’t expect to see it go any time soon. How else would they get SWAT toys?

  14. Anon says:

    “Detectives got an anonymous complaint that the house was being used to grow marijuana, and launched their investigation, serving a search warrant Monday.”

    It takes a bit more than an anonymous complaint to secure a search warrant. It should take substantially more hard evidence of wrong doing to secure a search warrant. There has to be more information here.

  15. Kyle says:

    It’s only called a “drug” because of propaganda films made in the 40’s and 50’s, the stigma remains because some people are either unwilling or just too dense to think for themselves and actually learn about the plant, which serves a variety of purposes besides getting high. Brian, I can honestly say you are completely full of shit if you actually think bullets are whizzing by your house because someone is growing weed, here’s a hint: they like to remain low key, it’s better for business. If we decriminalize it, people won’t have to go to drug dealers, they can grow it themselves and take the money out of the gang’s and cartel’s hands. It is completely ridiculous that people are in prison for non-violent offenses like this because some manipulative men in power 75 years ago didn’t want their wives to hang out at Jazz clubs.

  16. Angela Smith says:

    @Jessica Diaz: You probably DO live next door to “pot heads”, and just don’t know it! As to “get friggen real jobs”; when was the last time you had to look for work in Flagler County? Oh, and BTW, no one has EVER died from an overdose of marijuana; the same cannot be said for alcohol or any of the other “legal” drugs.

  17. confidential says:

    This is one of many tragically sad outcomes generated by drugs consumption in our country:

    If alcohol is legal why not the weeds? Just legalize it and let it be cultivated and commercialize and generate revenue here, ending the wars and massacres south of the border. Legislate stronger punishment for driving under the influence and/or commit crimes under the influence and against provide it to minors. Lets start the same anti-drug pernicious health consequences and anti-drug on the job or hiring campaign as is done now with smoking…and the drugs use will subside…just like happened with smokers in this last decade..We will save billions in foreign wasted funds to combat drug lords with no success and instead can invest here on drug rehabs and education of our own. Just my personal view..

  18. glad fly says:

    @ geezer….that’s irresponsible thinking. the whole country stoned…let’s not go there. our country has enough problems already. if you want to hit the bong and stayed stoned that’s cool but please don’t get out on the road and drive.. do not wish this on the rest of the country..yes we have alcohol and it’s responsible for more divorces and broken homes and ruined lives than i care to know about.

    • Geezer says:

      Say “pretty please with sugar on top.”

    • Ben Dover says:

      @glad , its responsible for a lot more then divorce , how bout wives getting their teeth knocked out cause hubby is drunk , or families killed in car accidents, I don t smoke pot now , but when I did and I drove , I drove slower , didn t get annoyed at idiots on the road, and paid much more attention to my surroundings, In school I wrote my best compositions while I was high , pot does not alter your abilities like alcohol does , it also helps people with cancer , helps people with glaucoma, like someone said above, calling it a drug is just stupid , its a natural herb , God created it, it does not make you violent , or black out , you don t have withdrawals like when you try and stop smoking cigarettes and alcohol, try it sometime , you`ve obviously been brain washed about its affects, I take 1000 high drivers on the road, than 1 drunk

  19. rthomp11 says:

    Oh NO say it isn’t so!!! Not in Paradise Palm Coast!? And here I thought all the drugs are suppose to be in Mondex.

  20. Magicone says:

    All these comments made on marijuana and not one person mentioned that it DOES have medicinal value. There are several states that have legalized it for “medicinal use”. There are 2 states that have legalized it for “recreational” use. But in the state of Florida you can still go to jail for having a joint of this stuff. Alcohol and tobacco are killing lots of people 24/7 every day of the year, and have been for decades. The Federal Government had a prohibition on alcohol,. then they realized that if they could tax it and bankroll their spending. Tobacco is taxed very heavily, the only reason that they can’t tax marijuana is because it grows everywhere. If the Federal government could figure out a way to tax marijuana it would be legal tomorrow, and we wouldn’t have to worry about this Fiscal Cliff that we are headed for. This is another item that the Federal government can’t decide where to stand like abortion, Gay marriage, immigration, gun control etc. What is the Flagler county sheriffs department doing with all the marijuana they are confiscating? Burning it?? Rolled like it was meant to or in a pile to destroy it…..???? They should be selling it to a state that will resell it to their citizens. Might take care of some of the bills around here like storm water and water and sewer. There is a 41/2 foot plant with nice buds growing in the storm water ditch behind my house, I’m sure someone will harvest it before the city cuts the ditch.

  21. Legal Eyez says:

    Let it grow like the plant is supposed to. Seems proposterous to ban a plant that has such potential.

  22. Deep South says:

    Theirs got to be laws that owners of homes, and real estate companies are required to do a background check on renters prior to them allowing them to moving in. I put just as much blame on the woman from New Jersey for having these drug dealers living in her house. I wonder if she did do a background check. I doubt it.

  23. Anonymous says:

    install smart meters–find grow houses…..

  24. Dude says:

    Wheatfield or potfield haha where is budbehere drive :)

  25. confidential says:

    The second highest unemployment county in Florida will generate creative ways to make a buck by gardening those weeds and also “consume something that make feel good as I am broke” leaving in a county surrounded by Lexus, VMW’s, Golf Courses, gated communities and yachts of the 1%.

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