Grants Pass Man Found Guilty of Manufacturing Marijuana and Possessing Machineguns and Silencers
Defendant claimed he was in compliance with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act
MEDFORD, Ore. - On Friday, June 8, 2012, Jason Michael Scott Nelson, 36, of Grants Pass, Oregon, was found guilty by a federal jury of conspiracy to manufacture or distribute marijuana, manufacture of marijuana, and possession of unregistered firearms. The jury also found that Nelson's residence at 2906 Midway Avenue, Grants Pass, Oregon was subject to criminal forfeiture because he used it to facilitate his drug crimes. The four-day trial was held in the Federal District Court in Medford, Oregon, with Judge Owen M. Panner presiding.
These charges resulted when an Oregon State Police drug team in Portland intercepted a 74 pound marijuana shipment headed for the East Coast on May 16, 2011. Part of the shipment was traced back to Nelson's residence in Grants Pass. The Rogue Area Drug Enforcement (RADE) executed a search warrant at the property and discovered an elaborate marijuana grow room outfitted with 44 water cooled lights, containing 24 marijuana plants approximately 3-4 feet tall in Nelson's residence. A separate room hidden behind a gun safe contained 29 one-pound heat sealed packages of marijuana bud. Officers also found at Nelson's residence three machineguns, two silencers, two undersized rifles, high capacity magazines, and a variety of machinegun parts, including four drop-in automatic sears, a device designed to convert a semi-automatic weapon into a machinegun. Officers also discovered a shipping container outfitted with five grow lights and another 162 marijuana starter plants. A house on adjoining property belonging to Nelson's parents contained another indoor marijuana grow with 52 plants approximately three feet tall under 11 grow lights, six pounds of packaged marijuana bud, and over 55 pounds of dried marijuana leaf. Evidence produced at trial indicated that Nelson was selling multiple pounds of marijuana for $2,400-$2,700 per pound.
"This case is yet another example of a criminal attempting to use the Oregon Medical Marijuana Law to shield himself from accountability," said U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall. "This is not a case about a care giver providing medicine to sick people. The jury who heard this case saw through that lie and concluded that this defendant is just another drug dealer."
Nelson took the witness stand and denied selling marijuana. He asserted that he was a licensed OMMA grower for four patients, and that he set up the elaborate growing operation to serve his patients, accepting no money in return. He claimed that only six of the 29 identically packaged pounds of marijuana were his, and that the remaining 23 pounds belonged to other marijuana growers who stored their marijuana in his locked room. Nelson further claimed he was entrapped into growing medical marijuana because he relied upon an October 2009 U.S. Department of Justice press release representing that the federal government would not prosecute persons who were in clear and unambiguous compliance with state medical marijuana laws. However, Nelson admitted that he paid non-registered persons to trim his marijuana, and that he dried and trimmed all of his marijuana on the adjoining property, which was not an authorized grow site, in violation of the state law. Nelson also claimed that while he was a gun collector and possessed the listed restricted weapons, he had no idea they were machineguns, silencers, and short-barreled rifles.
Judge Panner ordered that Nelson be taken into custody at the conclusion of a release hearing on June 11, 2012. The maximum penalty Nelson faces is 40 years prison and a $5,000,000 fine. Sentencing is set for August 13, 2012.
This case was investigated by the Rogue Area Drug Enforcement Team, Oregon State Police, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Doug Fong.