Pot Garden Harvested In Round Valley

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by Katy Whitehouse

roundup editor

Acting on a tip, undercover narcotics officers found a back-yard marijuana garden with 150 plants at a Round Valley home.

The residents of the home a husband and wife who both have chronic hepatitis C, an incurable liver disease said they were growing the drug to cope with the ravages of chemotherapy.

"I thought I was doing the right thing, trying to get my wife through this," the 46-year-old husband and father of two said. "I know it was wrong, but that's what I thought a husband and father should do try to keep the family together and get them through this."

The couple were not arrested, and charges, which could include a felony charge for cultivating marijuana, are pending a formal complaint from the Gila County Attorney's office.

According to newspaper policy, crime suspects are only named in the Roundup after an arrest has been made.

The marijuana plants, which ranged in height from 1 to 4 feet, had a street value of roughly $14,000, a task force officer said.

Armed with a search warrant, the Payson Police Department's Special Response Team forcibly entered the family's home shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday. Agents with the Gila County Narcotics Task Force, which, contrary to recent rumors has not disbanded, followed and searched the house and property. They found and confiscated 23 pounds of home-grown marijuana, packets of marijuana seeds, garden fertilizers, three handguns and four rifles.

"I started chemotherapy last year and got very sick," the husband said. "My wife waited (to start chemotherapy) because of our kids.

"Chemo makes you sleepless, restless, nauseated, irritable and it makes it very hard to eat. You feel like you have a knot in your throat all the time.

"I tried (marijuana), and it helped with the nausea, it boosted my appetite and acted like a sedative. It really helped.

"Most people can't make it through a year of chemotherapy, but I made it, and then my wife started hers. Marijuana was too expensive to buy, so I decided to grow it.

"I've been off chemo for a year, and it's been successful. I have no active virus at this time, but I don't feel like I'm done. My wife, (who has three more months of chemotherapy to go) is going through the same agony that I did."

Task force agents, however, found five pounds of packaged marijuana in the house, one officer said.

"It could have been packaged for distribution," he said. "We found 18 gallon-size bags that were each about a quarter full, and we found lots of other little bags (of marijuana)."

The two suspects weren't arrested Tuesday, a task force agent said, because they didn't have prior drug records and they had health issues.

"I feel so terrible, especially for my kids," who were home when the house was searched, the father said. "This is such a loving community, and hopefully the people who know us will keep being our friends."

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