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Another Pot Grow House Busted in Palm Coast As Critics and Lawmakers Press Legalization

| March 20, 2015

Some of the pot plants seized at the Rocking Lane house in Palm Coast Thursday.

Some of the pot plants seized at the Rocking Lane house in Palm Coast Thursday.

Early next week a Florida Senate committee takes up a measure that will create the framework for marijuana nurseries to grow and process medicinal pot. The measure would also broaden the state law passed last year to make medical pot available to treat more than the narrow set of illnesses approved last year.

Friday morning on WNZF’s Free For All Friday in Flagler, Ray Strack, a former U.S. Customes special agent for 27 years, five of them in charge of narcotic interdiction, and a member of the advocacy group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (or Leap), spoke at length about the continuing and ill-conceived war on marijuana, one of whose victims fell in Deltona earlier this month.

On March 4, a Volusia County sheriff’s deputy killed Derek Cruice, a 26-year-old pizza delivery man and resident of Deltona, shooting him in the face, when SWAT Team members raided the home on a warrant to search for narcotics. They found 9 ounces of marijuana at the house.

“It’s the failed policies that cause these tragedies,” Strack said. “An unarmed man was killed by deputies in the service of a no-knock warrant to find marijuana. It’s just Byzantine. What’s wrong is, the use of militarized police to intercede in adult, consensual behavior.” He added: “We don’t want to blame rank-and-file law enforcement officers, we want to focus on the policies that create this problem.”

Just as Strack was speaking on the air, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office issued a news release announcing the arrest of a Palm Coast man on marijuana charges, the latest man to be arrested for having a marijuana grow house, this one in the R Section.

Thursday afternoon, deputies got alerted to a possible burglary at 17 Rocking Lane in Palm Coast. The 911 caller said he (or she) saw “two suspicious males that they had never seen before,” an arrest report states, “run from the garage at 17 Rocking Ln., carrying a box.” Arriving at the scene, a deputy checked the area and saw no suspects. He met with the 911 caller, who asked police for anonymity. The caller had no more details.

The deputy saw the garage door to 17 Rocking Lane was open, with no vehicle at the residence.

No let-up in marijuana arrests even as the state looks to broaden access to medical pot.

“I then walked into the garage and knocked on the door leading into the residence while announcing my presence,” the deputy reported. No one answered. “I found the entry door leading into the residence to be unlocked and opened the door making more announcements of my presence and attempting to make contact with any suspects still inside the residence or possible victims. I again received no answer in response to my announcements. Due to the exigent circumstances I then entered the residence in an attempt to locate any possible suspects or to make contact with any possible victims that need immediate attention.”

While “clearing” the house, the deputy noticed from 15 to 20 marijuana plants in a walk-in closet in a bedroom toward the front of the residence. The closet had grow lights above, a fan below, and insulation all around. The plants were in separate containers and had grown from 2 to 3 feet.

Clearing the rest of the residence, the deputy noticed “more grow lights, insulation, and what appeared to be piping for duct work in a  room on the right rear of the home. I also observed numerous small plants growing in rows with grow lights located directly above them in the same room.” Continuing to work, the deputy found neither suspects nor victims. He contacted other sheriff’s officials, including a supervisor and detectives, to whom the scene was turned over.

A detective was able to contact the tenant, Walter Puckett, 35. (The arrest report calls him the homeowner, though the house actually belongs to a Daytona Beach owner, and it is not homesteaded: Puckett is a renter.) Puckett declined consent for deputies to search the house, though that had already taken place—a vulnerability to the prosecution in any court case, though the deputy had acted on the presumption of probable cause that an active criminal incident was taking place, giving police in such circumstances the authority to move in. The gray line is hashed out in court.

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The detective secured a search warrant, which yielded 28 plants. Puckett was arrested and charged with one count of cultivating marijuana and one count of drug paraphernalia possession. He posted bail on $11,000 bond and was released.

Every few months, the sheriff’s office makes arrests at a grow house in the county, though the last one goes back to February 2014, when 61 pot plants were seized at the house of a disabled Mondex man who was growing them for medicinal purposes. In the meantime, 58 percent of Floridians voted to legalize medical marijuana last November, but the proposed constitutional amendment—which Sheriff Jim Manfre favored—needed 60 percent to pass.

The sheriff’s office continues to make arrests for marijuana possession, with several such arrests every week. Possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor, but still results in an arrest record. And the sheriff’s office continues to send its SWAT team on warrant services that involve just marijuana charges. The tactic has drawn increasing attention nationwide because of the potential violence the deployment of SWAT teams pore-supposes, and because of the disproportionate level of violence and harm that can occur (as it did in Deltona this month), in comparison with the relatively minor crime at issue.

That was in large part Strack’s point this morning. The organization he belongs to represents some 100,000 supporters including, according to its About page, “police, judges, prosecutors, prison wardens, FBI and DEA agents, and civilian supporters of drug policy reform.”

“What happens here is the attitudes and the delivery system of law enforcement is affected greatly by the administration and the policies that put those guys in those places,” said Strack, who was especially critical of the militarization of police forces, and their use of military hardware during marijuana busts.

“We need to change our attitudes on the ground,” he said. “We have to reach more people and get them to see that, look, the prohibition policies of the current war on drugs started by Nixon, cause these problems. It’s not the drugs themselves. And in the case of marijuana, it’s obvious. Look, this is a weed, it grows, it should be available to everybody. Everybody should be able to grow it in their back yard. We spent almost $1 trillion at this point on the war on drugs, over 60 percent of that is against marijuana. So you’re talking about $600 billion spent to enforce laws against marijuana use.”

Calling ignorance “the only downside,” he concluded: “We’ve had success in our society in our work against two drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and in both of those successes it was about education, it was about making those substances boring, making those substances, if you abuse them, you’re sick, you’re not cool. If you drink too much, you’re sick, you go and get help, and if you go and get help you’re not afraid of intervention by law enforcement authorities.”

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31 Responses for “Another Pot Grow House Busted in Palm Coast As Critics and Lawmakers Press Legalization”

  1. rst says:

    Clearly, this will be thrown out of court.

  2. Nicole says:

    Sounds very fishy. Don’t see how the search was even justified—door was “unlocked?” Any decent defense attorney will surely file a motion to suppress the evidence and get this thrown out.

    • Anonymous says:

      There was a burglary call, the officer is able to have access to the home in case their are further criminals, or the homeowner was injured. It is standard procedure.

  3. Nalla C. says:

    This is so tiresome. So ridiculous. SO unnecessary.

    That young man from Deltona–shot in the face by a SWAT Team member–should not be dead, yet he is–cut down by a rank-and-file SWAT team person over a PLANT. IMO, Mr. Strack is far too lenient on those executing these SWAT raids. Sure, the policies are what make the raids happen, and policy should be addressed with the lawmakers too–but the SWAT person who murdered this young citizen will go scot-free for his crime and that’s just completely and totally wrong. That person, at minimum, must be relieved of his duties. What he did was murder, pure and simple. This garbage has to be stopped and it has to be stopped NOW.

  4. PeachesMcGee says:

    Pot smokers are only guilty of watching terrible B-rated movies and eating Fritos.

  5. Freddy says:

    These deaths are caused by stupid politicians passing these stupid laws. In New York you can get killed by selling cigarettes by the pack.

  6. Rick Gardner says:

    Law enforcement will never let go of this until Legislatures and Congress take the money out of it. Marijuana is about as harmful as a handful of sand yet money, time and expertise is wasted on arresting people in possession or growing some plants… Plants people!!! They grow naturally in the ground…

  7. SUE THOMAS says:

    If anyone ever RENTED OUT their house and had some hooligan grown POT inside;; they would think twice before blaming the Police for raiding a suspected pot-growing-house.
    I had this happen to me and the house was infiltrated with MOLD because of the lights and irrigation system used by these B#####ds .
    If you have not be exposed to this, take heed when you rent out your house. It CAN happen to you!!

  8. SUE THOMAS says:

    THAT’S LIGHTS & IRRIGATION. (causes high humidity. )

  9. SW says:

    Legalize and get it over with

  10. Outsider says:

    The sheriff ‘continues to arrest” people for marijuana because it is still illegal, and his job is to enforce the laws as they exist. Too bad this concept is lost upon the highest levels of our government.

  11. What's Happening says:

    So you rented out your house and never checked on your tenants? Never hired a property manager? Of course it can happen to you if you don’t perform due diligence..

    And I’ll tell you something else–if your tenants ruined your house with MOLD, they either weren’t very good at growing pot or else they had something else going on besides pot (like a crack house–and if you can’t see one of those from a mile away, you should seriously consider never renting out your house, ever again).

    • SUE THOMAS says:

      This all happened to me in the 1980″s; I was moving out of state and COULD NOT CHECK ON MY HOUSE. Also, back then CRACK was not in the picture. This was a time when people couldn’t do background checks easily; references were all that was required. (and a check with the company they worked for.)
      And ALSO, buddy, they left the empty grow pots!! It was pot growing! ( AND ..I don’t think I was breaking the law by renting out my house…….

      • Nalla C. says:

        That’s Mrs. Buddy to you, thanks. If you COULD NOT CHECK ON YOUR HOUSE, then you can’t complain if you rented it out and someone did things to it that you don’t like, or that ended up being illegal. You could have chosen to hire a property manager.

        There is still such a thing as “ultimate responsibility”. How about taking it here and admit that not all renters are drug addicts? I’ll guarantee you that if it was as bad as you say it was, “pot” wasn’t the drug of choice.

        • SUE THOMAS says:

          dear MRS Buddy, You have no idea of what the humidity of GROW LIGHTS AND IRRIGATION do to the inside of a house!

          It sounds to me as if you never had to rent out a house in the ’80’s. Well GOOD FOR YOU!
          Circumstances do affect most of us in this life and SOMETIMES, if you check around, you find that DUE DILIGENCE is not enough to protect yourself from Greedy people that actually, if you check, did(AND DO) rent houses in upscale neighborhoods strictly for GROW HOUSES! (and maybe you weren’t around in the ’70’s & ’80’s when people didn’t usually get PROPERTY MANAGERS to rent out their houses.)
          AND AS TO “ultimate responsibility” , i DID NOT imply that all renters are drug addicts. Most just want a safe place to live. May you never be in a situation where you are harmed by the OTHERS.

  12. Just saying says:

    It’s not only about the plants. The broken window

    Where there is a grow operation, there is distribution, there is sales. Then there are people trying to start their own operations, there are people who try to take what’s not theirs and so forth. Until it’s available at every gas station just like cigarettes, it will be continue to be the tip of a bad situation.

    I also find it funny, Tobacco is just a plant, people have been smoking it for at least as long as they smoked marijuana. What makes tobacco smoke a crime against humanity and pot smoke a natural right of the people? Do people believe that marijuana smoke isn’t harmful just like tobacco smoke?

    • anonymous says:

      People don’t know their history. Actually people were smoking hemp before tobacco. In addition, hemp was used for a number of different purposes. Then again most of the people that wrote our constitution were high on hemp. Now why is it so illegal?

      • Chuck says:

        hemp doesnt get you high. You could smoke a pound of hemp and not even feel the slightest urge to giggle as a result…….

      • Chuck says:

        if our founders were high, it was off the seeds ben franklin smuggled back from japan, and not the stuff growing wild here in the usa at the time….

        george washington was said to have known which of his plants were which and there is “evidence” he had his garden laid out so as to be able to split males and females

  13. David S. says:

    Pot is illegal in this state and while it is on the books as such you will be charged with a lesser crime or a felony until they pass laws in fla to change it the arrests will continue.

  14. What's Happening says:

    “The arrests” aren’t the point. The point is the way the arrests are being conducted, David. There was no reason for that Deltona man to be shot in the face by a SWAT Team member over a PLANT.

    Please, please, come out from behind your denial and acknowledge that your law enforcement mechanisms are out of control. To say “until they pass laws to change it” is a way to try to absolve yourself from further consideration of the grave wrong being perpetrated by our “criminal justice system”. I am here to tell you today, right now, that denying the wrongness of that grotesque MURDER by a member of our law enforcement–who will not be disciplined over this murder when he absolutely should be–is not going to make this stop either.

    Laws won’t change until those in denial come out from behind their cloaks of personal protection. We all have to admit that we have a very large problem in this society when it comes to law enforcement in general and with “the war on drugs” in particular, insofar as this benign plant should have never been classified as a “drug” at all. Denial might save your precious brain from having to think about this unpleasantness, but it is damned sure not going to help change a thing, and it is selfish, to boot.

  15. Sherry Epley says:

    Think about it. . . the only reason pot is not yet legal is that you can grow it yourself.

    It has beneficial medicinal value, and also has recreational value similar to alcoholic beverages. Big Pharmaceutical and Big Alcohol industries lobby hard (AKA Bribe Legislators) against legalization because it would cut deeply into their profits.

    Follow the Money!

  16. JimBob says:

    “Exigent circumstances” is police speak for “we know the search was illegal but we think we can get away with it.” It ranks very near to the “reliable confidential informant” and the unicorn as being based on fact.

    • Jon Dopp says:

      Well, when someone breaks into your house and assaults you and you are lying inside semi conscious, I’m sure you will appreciate it when the cops show up and refuse to enter your home to make sure you’re ok. Maybe they should just drive away and hope for the best, or wait outside for hours and get a search warrant while you lay inside dying. A classic example of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” The police will always be wrong. Doesn’t really matter what they do.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I agree it should be legal, but until then the law is the law.

    • Nalla C. says:

      The Law does not allow for police to shoot to kill as a first resort, particularly if shooting a person who is absolutely zero threat to them. What’s Happening is correct: insisting that “The law is the law” avoids this. This type of avoidance is lazy thinking–it is unhealthy and it is wrong. This means that all of us need to stop taking the lazy way out, face up to the fact that there is a grave problem here, admit it and DEAL WITH IT.

  18. Lancer says:

    28 plants? Sounds like a hardened and violent perpetrator! What a waste of time and resources.

  19. Chuck says:

    stuff looks awful. Just as well it wont end up getting smoked. Looks like a big headache in waiting.

  20. Big al says:

    Don’t sue the police department, Sue that officer as an individual as a individual person holding him responsible for his own actions that is murder

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