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Rural Benson man busted for apparent pot-growing operation

BENSON -- A rural Benson man made his first court appearance Friday on a fifth-degree drug possession charge filed after law enforcement officials searched his property and found an apparent marijuana growing operation.

Unconditional bail was set at $20,000 bond or $2,500 cash for Jeffrey Peter Marose, 45. Conditional release was allowed on his personal recognizance. His next appearance in Swift County District Court was not set.

According to Swift County Sheriff John Holtz, Marose was released with conditions including that he stay in contact with his attorney, submit to random testing and not enter establishments that sell alcohol or places where non-prescribed mood altering chemicals are present.

According to Holtz, Marose is an ex-law enforcement officer who worked for the Washington County Sheriff's Office, left law enforcement in 2002 and later worked for the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department.

According to the complaint, law enforcement agents served a warrant Wednesday on Marose's home, along 60th Street Northeast. They found no one on the property or in two homes there. A search re-vealed two fairly large marijuana plants hanging in the barn and several plants still growing near the barn, marijuana seeds and indoor growing equipment, lights, plant trays and pots.

Officers also found multiple guns and ammunition, scales and paraphernalia used for smoking marijuana. Also located in the home were a trail cam, motion sensor lights, walkie talkies and a driveway sensor that appeared to be operating. They also found a stop sign with a tag that said property of Kandiyohi County.

Officers collected 138.8 grams of marijuana, which had fallen to the barn floor, from the hanging plants. They also chopped down the growing plants. The plants were placed into evidence to dry completely and the marijuana from them will be weighed later.

Marose was arrested at his place of employment in Benson. He was interviewed and allegedly claimed he was a pot smoker who does not sell marijuana and that it was for personal use only. He said the growing equipment was for his tomatoes and to start his garden.

The complaint notes that marijuana plants can yield upward of a half pound of marijuana per plant.