Police estimate $60,000 worth of pot taken from grow site
By Ann McCreary
One Twisp resident remained in jail and another was released on bail after being arrested for allegedly stealing about 60 pounds of marijuana from a licensed growing operation on Horizon Flats Road in Winthrop.
A third suspect is being sought in the pot heist, which occurred Dec. 10 at the Methow Valley Nursery, which grows and processes marijuana.
Police arrested Nathaniel Dean Mowen, 20, and Joseph Theodore Jones, 24, at an apartment in Twisp the following day and booked them into Okanogan County Corrections Center, said Ken Bajema of the Winthrop marshal’s office. Jones remained in jail as of early this week.
They have been charged with second-degree burglary, first-degree theft, possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, and third-degree malicious mischief.
A warrant has been issued for a third suspect, Bajema said.
The marijuana that was taken from the grow site, valued at up to $60,000, had been processed and was in large, sturdy garbage bags, Bajema said. Most of the marijuana was recovered, he said.
Bajema said the people responsible for the theft were probably emboldened by the fact that there were no police officers on duty in Winthrop when they broke into the nursery. Bajema was the only police officer employed by Winthrop at the time, and has since resigned, leaving the town without a police force.
“They knew I was off duty, they knew how long it takes to respond. They were in and out of there very quickly,” said Bajema, who has been critical of the Town Council and mayor for their management of the police department and for not filling vacant positions in the department.
“This is what happens,” Bajema said. “We have $300,000 worth of marijuana in this town. That’s a guess based on the fact that $40,000 to $60,000 was stolen. The town has an obligation to have police services in town,” he said.
“Everyone has a scanner around here,” Bajema added. “I know there was a scanner involved in this.”
Because Bajema was not on duty, the Okanogan County sheriff’s office responded to the break-in. “It was fortunate that [deputy] Ottis Buzzard was able to respond so quickly,” Bajema said.
“If the marijuana hadn’t been recovered, it would have turned into meth, heroine and property crime,” he said.
State regulations require outdoor marijuana growing operations to have solid, eight-foot-high fences to obscure the crops, alarms and 24-hour video surveillance.
According to police reports, Jones said he had worked for Methow Valley Nursery last summer, said Sheriff Frank Rogers. The sheriff’s office took over the case when Bajema resigned.
This is the first reported theft from a licensed marijuana growing facility in Okanogan County since they became legalized, said Rogers.
After so many years of arresting people for possessing marijuana, Rogers said he finds some irony in responding to a call from someone reporting their marijuana stolen.
“Now we’re helping him find his dope. And we’re delivering it back,” Rogers said.