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Grants Pass Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison on Federal Marijuana and Gun Charges

Despite previous testimony that he produced marijuana only for medical purposes, defendant admits that he lied at trial and really produced marijuana for sale.

October 29, 2012

MEDFORD, OREGON - On Monday, October 29, 2012, Federal District Judge Owen M. Panner sentenced Jason Michael Scott Nelson, age 37, of Grants Pass, Oregon, to 10 years in federal prison for conspiracy and manufacture of marijuana and possession of unregistered firearms. Nelson was found guilty in June 2012 after a four day jury trial in the Federal District Court in Medford, Oregon.

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 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 3 machineguns, 2 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 5 grow lights, containing 162 marijuana starts. A house on adjoining property belonging to Nelson's parents contained another indoor marijuana grow with 52 plants, approximately 3 feet tall, under 11 grow lights, 6 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.

Nelson took the witness stand and denied selling any marijuana. He asserted that he was a licensed OMMP grower for four patients and set up the elaborate growing operation to serve his patients, accepting no money in return. Nelson claimed that only six of the 29 identically packaged pounds of marijuana in a hidden room were his, and that the remaining 23 pounds belonged to other medical growers who stored their marijuana in his locked room. Nelson denied any involvement with the 52 plant grow on his parents - adjoining property, claiming it belonged to Sherman. 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 strictly complied 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 his parents - adjoining property, which was not an authorized grow site. Nelson also claimed that while he was a gun collector and possessed the alleged restricted weapons, he had no idea they were machineguns, silencers, and short-barreled rifles.

At his October 29 sentencing hearing, Nelson acknowledged that he fabricated evidence and committed perjury at a pre-trial suppression hearing and at the trial. He admitted that he was motivated by greed and took advantage of the OMMP, selling marijuana several times both before and after he was indicted. Nelson argued for a five year sentence with an additional $20,000 fine as punishment for his perjury. In imposing the 10 year sentence, Federal District Judge Owen M. Panner indicated that although he believed that Nelson would not reoffend, he could not overlook the seriousness of the offense and Nelson's efforts to obstruct justice.

This case was investigated jointly by the Rogue Area Drug Enforcement Team, the Oregon State Police, Grants Pass Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas W. Fong.

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