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Med. marijuana theft doesn't shock cops

By Balzafire, Aug 10, 2010 | Updated: Aug 16, 2010 | |
  1. Balzafire
    Delton man reports theft, could be growing issue

    DELTON, Mich. (WOOD) - In the past, drug theft was a crime that often went unreported; a cost of doing business. But in Delton, the marijuana was legal and the victim wasn't a drug dealer.

    A home was broken into last weekend and 11 potted marijuana plants were stolen from Kevin Spitler, a licensed medical marijuana caregiver. The pot was meant to help patients manage their pain.

    "The door was kicked in," Spitler said. "(I) walked in and my house was trashed. (I) went downstairs and someone took my medical marijuana plants that I was growing for patients."

    The theft isn't a huge surprise, police said, especially with the popularity of Michigan's medical marijuana law.

    "It's definitely going to be an issue," said Capt. Joe Taylor, of the Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team. "I think as they issue these cards, they're doing it by the thousand and thousands. We're going to have more problems that come about from it.

    "Several times a week, there are drug ripoffs that occur. Now, you're going to an actual home where they know people have medical marijuana. The way they're growing marijuana plants, it's just a draw for somebody to come and take them."

    Since the law went into effect in April 2009, more than 22,000 people have obtained state permits to smoke marijuana for their pain.

    Many get it from caregivers such as Spitler, who can treat up to five patients and grow up to 12 plants at a time for each person.

    For thieves, these caregivers are potentially prime targets.

    Spitler's plants were several months old, about 3 1/2 feet tall and worth about $1,600 apiece -- a total value of more than $17,000.

    He uses oil from the plants for his own neck and back pain.

    "I'm going to do everything I can do to help them with their medicine," Spitler said. "I mean, they're a lot worse off than what I am in my pain. I'll try to find medicine for my patients that count on me.

    "That's going to be tough. That's my job, is to help them."

    It's unclear how many medical marijuana growers have been targeted in Michigan. The state health department, which licenses users and caregivers, doesn't keep track.

    The only other incident was reported last week in Park Township, where thieves broke into a caregiver's grow room and stole two plants.

    The editor of Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine told 24 Hour News 8 on Monday he's aware of one other case. Last month in Oakland County, thieves cut through the roof of an operation to reach their targets -- about 24 plants.

    "With the economy the way it is, people are looking for a way to make money," Spitler said. "I just hope the caregiver and patients that are growing see this and they can take into consideration what happened to me and make everything a little more secure for themselves."

    Taylor, who opposes the medical marijuana law, suggests growers take more precautions.

    "My only advice is, there are different levels of security -- make sure it's extremely secure so it's very difficult to get into; maybe even alarms," Taylor said.

    Spitler already has taken precautions, he said, and has installed motion detectors. His next step is to put in video surveillance cameras.

    By Ken Kolker
    Monday, 09 Aug 2010


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