Craiglist pot ad trial gets under way in Nevada County
February 21, 2013
Prosecutor Jim Phillips kept it short and sweet during his opening statements as the trial of a Grass Valley man on pot sales charges got under way.
“This case isn’t really about marijuana,” Phillips told the jurors. “It’s about profit.”
Ronald Hansen, 54, was arrested in November 2011 after a Nevada County Sheriff’s narcotics task force member responded to his Craigslist.org advertisement, set up a buy and met with him in the parking lot of a Grass Valley restaurant.
As his trial began Wednesday morning in Nevada County Superior Court, Phillips told the jury he wanted to break the case down by the numbers.
“One and a half — that’s the ounces of marijuana that (the undercover officer) obtained,” Phillips said. “Three hundred — that’s the amount (Hansen) wanted in exchange.”
The third number, 104 pounds, referred to the amount of marijuana still on the stem that was recovered from Hansen’s house, which reportedly took three cars to transport.
“The last number — $180,000 — that’s the street value” of the seized marijuana, Phillips concluded.
But Hansen’s attorney, Stephen Munkelt, attempted to show his client believed he was acting within the scope of the law when he arranged to sell some of his medical marijuana.
Hansen had purchased the foreclosure property in 2010 and intended to renovate the house, Munkelt said, adding that he was living in a motor home on the Ridge Road property.
According to Munkelt, Hansen had a recommendation for medical marijuana use and was a part of a collective run by a grower in Cedar Ridge. He volunteered time to tend the garden and in 2011, agreed to let the grower dry the harvest in his vacant house. Hansen logged approximately 48 hours of work in the garden and received several ounces of marijuana as payment, Munkelt said.
“He believed it was entirely legal to find a marijuana patient and provide them with marijuana for cash,” he said. “As if he got paid in Euros and wanted to exchange them for dollars.”
Hansen’s Craigslist ad clearly stated he was selling Prop. 215 marijuana only to someone with a valid recommendation, Munkelt said.
“Unfortunately for Mr. Hansen, it was Deputy Jeff Martin who responded to his ad,” he said, adding that Martin lied when asked if he had a card.
Sheriff’s Deputy John Dzioba testified that he was the member of the Narcotics Task Force that conducted the undercover buy on Nov. 9, 2011. After Hansen was cited and released at the scene, deputies went to his house on Ridge Road and requested a search warrant after they smelled marijuana, Dzioba said.
Dzioba testified that he searched the motor home where Hansen was living and found two pistols and a shotgun in the bedroom, as well as nine Mason jars and a plastic jug of marijuana inside a cabinet, totaling about 12 ounces.
Sgt. Guy Selleck testified that he searched the house, which appeared uninhabited.
He said there was about 104 pounds of marijuana on the stem drying on wires in both bedrooms of the house, as well as multiple bins and plastic buckets containing an additional 8 pounds of trimmed marijuana.
The jurors got an unexpected field trip so that the prosecution could display the entire collection of bins and buckets, sealed with evidence tape, that contained the seized marijuana.
They opened several of the containers just outside the courthouse, as curious passersby gawked.
Martin detailed answering Hansen’s online ad and then exchanging a series of texts in which he set up the buy.
After a back-and-forth discussion about his expertise, he testified that it was his opinion that Hansen would have netted about half the weight of the marijuana on the stem in saleable cola, for a total of 60 pounds.
Hansen’s trial resumes at 9 a.m. today, as Munkelt begins his defense.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.