Testimony shines light on medical marijuana battle
June 27, 2011
A former Atascadero resident testified Thursday that large marijuana growers hide behind the cover of medical marijuana while growing hundreds of pounds of illegal weed to sell for big bucks on the black market. [NECN]
“Everybody’s in this for money. Don’t let anybody fool you,” Thomas Bletko, 51, testified in Josephine County Circuit Court in Oregon. “It’s all done under the guise of being medical.”
Bletko and Brenda Thomas, the manager of the Hemp and Cannabis Foundation clinic in Grants Pass, were licensed to produce 19.5 pounds of marijuana. Oregon State Police arrested Thomas and Bletko after they seized 200 pounds of pot valued at about $500,000 from Thomas’ farm in Grants Pass, Oregon.
“You don’t grow half a million dollars worth of pot for medical patients,” Bletko said.
Bletko turned state’s evidence in exchange for no jail time and 18 months of non-supervised probation for testifying against Thomas. The foundation, headed by longtime Portland marijuana activist Paul Stanford, has clinics in nine states, where doctors examine patients looking for state authorization to use pot to treat medical conditions, NECN reported.
Under Oregon’s medical marijuana law, patients can have someone else grow pot for them, but growers cannot charge patients for the marijuana they produce. They can only collect for expenses, such as electricity and fertilizer, NECN said.
Prosecutors contend Bletko and Thomas planned to provide a small amount of the pot to patients. They said the remainder was to be sold illegally with Bletko and Thomas planning to split the profits.
Thomas argues that she had no idea Bletko was growing more marijuana than permitted. She says that Bletko had not offered to split the illegal profits with her.
Medical marijuana advocates contend Thomas is being railroaded by anti-medical marijuana members of law enforcement. In addition, critics of Bletko’s plea agreement question if his brother’s role as the district attorney of a neighboring Oregon county swayed prosecutors to offer Bletko a deal.
Thomas’ defense attorney Foster Glass said that Bletko has regularly moved in on women to grow marijuana and refused to leave.
Under subpoena, Atascadero resident Cindy Sasur is slated to testify on Tuesday that Bletko grew more plants than he was legally permitted to while renting a home from her in Atascadero while she was working out of town.
Bletko received a medical marijuana card from San Luis Obispo based Dr. Atsuko Rees in 2008. He then took three Atascadero residents to Rees and purchased medical marijuana cards for $450 which listed him as their caregiver.
Sasur told CalCoastNews she discovered Bletko had more marijuana at her home than the law allowed and threatened to call authorities. Bletko allegedly fought back threatening to tell police half the pot was hers.
Sasur said she was able to remove him from her home shortly thereafter.
Meanwhile, in January, while on probation, Bletko was arrested in northern California on felony charges of transporting hashish for sale across state lines. He is scheduled for a July 19 preliminary hearing.