Pubdate: Wed, 07 Sep 2011
Source: Missoulian (MT)
Copyright: 2011 Missoulian
Author: Gwen Florio, The Missoulian 


The fallout from a coordinated series of federal raids on medical
marijuana businesses around Montana continued Tuesday, with a
Kalispell man pleading guilty to a federal charge in connection with
the sweeps.

Tyler Roe, 29, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Missoula to
conspiracy to manufacture marijuana. As part of a plea agreement,
charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and possession with the
intent to distribute marijuana were dropped.

Roe was among four Flathead County men charged after federal agents
executed 26 search warrants across Montana on March 12, the same day
as a legislative hearing on whether to repeal or tighten Montana's
medical marijuana law.

All four men were associated with a warehouse on U.S. Highway 93 near
Olney that served as a grow operation for more than 700 plants,
according to court documents. On Tuesday, Roe told U.S. District Judge
Donald Molloy that he was just the on-site warehouse manager.

"I didn't pay attention to the numbers and amount of patients. Pretty
much I just worked there," he said. "My job was to do construction and
take care of the plants."

At the time of the raids, Montana's medical marijuana law allowed
providers to grow plants for an unlimited number of patients.
Legislative reforms changed that to three patients per provider,
although a court challenge has blocked that change and others.

In response to questions from Molloy, Roe said he was convinced a jury
would find him guilty, and that a plea was in his best interest. As
part of the plea agreement, he wavied his right to appeal.

The mandatory minimum sentence is five years. There is no parole in
the federal courts system. The maximum sentence is 40 years and a fine
that recently was raised from $1 million to $5 million. Molloy set
sentencing for Dec. 15.

The judge also allowed Roe to continue working his job in the oil
fields in North Dakota until he's sentenced, as long as he continues
regular testing for drug and alcohol use.

Two of Roe's co-defendants entered guilty pleas in back-to-back
hearings last week.

Ryan Gifford Blindheim, 35, who owned the Black Pearl dispensary in
Olney, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and money
laundering. Evan James Corum, 25, of Whitefish, pleaded guilty to a
single count of money laundering.

A fourth Flathead County man, Michael Kassner, 24, of Kalispell, is
scheduled to plead Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, three members of a
Miles City family - Richard Flor, his wife Sherry and son Justin - are
scheduled to enter pleas in federal court in Missoula to an indictment
alleging the manufacture and distrubtion of marijuana, plus money
laundering, weapons and conspiracy charges.

All three have pleaded not guilty in connection with an earlier
indictment stemming from one of the federal raids. The Associated
Press reported that they plan to enter not guilty pleas again on Wednesday. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.