The Ravalli County Attorney’s Office is pressing charges against the owners of a Stevensville marijuana operation that was raided in July.

Deputy County Attorney Ryan Weldon has filed four felony charges against the partners who ran Banana Belt Caregivers just east of the Stevensville Wye. The partners are being summoned to justice court to answer the charges on Jan. 13.

Thomas Fenton Patterson, Kelly Robin Goosey, Tony Stuart Smith and Edward Leonard Smartt are all charged with drug production, distribution, possession with intent to distribute, and possession of property subject to forfeiture based upon evidence seized in a July 20 raid conducted by Ravalli County sheriff’s deputies.

According to Weldon’s filing, a man reported on July 16 that people were growing marijuana on his rental property in Florence. A few days later, deputies confirmed that the renter, Darrell Riley, had no marijuana user or provider card so they got a warrant to search the property.

When deputies arrived at the property, the plants were gone. Riley, 50, told them the plants belonged to Smartt, who had taken them away.

Deputies located Smartt, who admitted the plants were his, because he was a grower for Banana Belt Caregivers. Smartt told them he had no plants at the facility at the time.

Smartt said Patterson, Goosey and Smith were growing plants there because Banana Belt was claiming to be a “provider” under the state of Montana’s new marijuana law. Patterson had a provider card for 99 patients under the old law.

On July 1, the revamped law went into effect, reducing the amount of marijuana people could possess and severely curtailing providers. However, on June 30, District Judge James Reynolds blocked some of the restrictions included in the law and the final ruling is still working its way to the state Supreme Court. That caused some confusion on both sides of the law.

More recently, Missoula business owner Jason Christ filed a Dec. 14 lawsuit claiming the new marijuana law is unconstitutional.

On July 20, Goosey called the sheriff’s office to say he was shutting down the business, concerned that it was in violation of the new law. Under the new law, all providers were supposed to turn in their excess plants, but Goosey said the partners had not.

Goosey said the partners had submitted the required forms in Helena on July 1 so they thought they could proceed with keeping four plants per patient, resulting in 396 plants.

But Rachel Donahoe of the Department of Health and Human Services told deputies that no new cards had been issued since the law went into effect.

Deputies got a warrant, which resulted in the July 20 raid, where deputies found 195 live plants, far more than that allowed by law.

Several weeks later, a detective recorded Patterson selling marijuana and claiming to represent Banana Belt.

Goosey said Smartt helped with Banana Belt Caregivers but was not an employee. So Smartt is charged with an additional five felonies in a related incident, including distribution, possession and production of drugs, for raising the plants that were found in Florence by Riley’s’ landlord on July 16.

On July 25, deputies searched Smartt’s residence and found eight live marijuana plants and 2.6 ounces of dried marijuana.

Deputies spoke to Smartt’s mother, who said Riley had been hired to mow her lawn and saw Smartt with some marijuana plants. She said Riley volunteered to raise some marijuana because his ex-wife had multiple sclerosis and a California medical marijuana card.

Smartt told deputies the eight marijuana plants they found in his yard were the ones he took from Riley’s property.

Riley was charged with felony drug production on July 20. His trial date is set for March 19.

News Hawk – 420 Warrior 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Ravalli Republic (Hamilton, MT)
Author: Laura Lundquist, Ravalli Republic
Contact: [email protected]
Copyright: 2011 Ravalli Republic
Website: Ravalli Republic