Medical pot cultivator arrested for growing weed for himself
BRANDON — A man who worked as a cultivator at the medical marijuana dispensary in Brandon was arrested last week after he admitted growing pot in the basement of the building where he lives.
Brandon police arrested Benjamin St. George, 37, on Oct. 18 at his Steinberg Road apartment. Another tenant in the building had called police after he reported finding four marijuana plants growing in the building’s cellar.
According to the police report, another tenant, Hannah Davidson, told police she believed the plants belonged to St. George. When police went to St. George’s apartment and confronted him, St. George reportedly acknowledged that the plants were his. He told police that he had originally planted the marijuana plants in a back field on the farm property surrounding the house in August and recently brought them inside to the basement because of the cold weather. Police said the plants stood roughly 2.5-feet high.
According to police, St. George moved to the Steinberg Road apartment in August 2014 and was employed by the Rutland County Organics medical marijuana dispensary on Lover’s Lane in Brandon. He told police he planted the marijuana plants for his own use.
Rutland County Organics owner Alexandra Ford said in a phone interview Monday that St. George has been suspended from his full-time job as a cultivator at the dispensary.
“He was suspended as soon as he disclosed this (arrest) to me,” Ford said. “We notified the Department of Public Safety and will cooperate fully, as we always do.”
Ford said St. George will remain under suspension at least until his Nov. 16 arraignment in Rutland Court Superior Court, criminal division, and could lose his job depending on the outcome.
The Brandon dispensary opened in the fall of 2013, after approval from the Brandon Development Review Board and a settlement of an appeal from neighboring property owners on that decision to the Environmental Court.
The Vermont Medical Marijuana law of 2004 allowed for up to four medical marijuana dispensaries statewide to serve almost 500 patients on the state medical marijuana registry. The Brandon dispensary was the third to open. There are also dispensaries operating in Burlington and in Waterbury. There are almost 200 patients on the state registry living in four southern counties of Vermont who are unable to access the more northern dispensaries.
By law, a patient must suffer from a “debilitating medical condition” in order to qualify for the medical marijuana registry. State law allows patients suffering from illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, HIV, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, wasting disease, or Parkinson’s disease to access medical marijuana in order to alleviate their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Patients must have the approval of a physician they have been seeing for at least six months, who authorizes the use of medical marijuana for the patient once all other avenues have been exhausted. Patients must be screened by the Department of Public Safety, submit to a background check and agree to no-knock searches by law enforcement before being accepted onto the state registry.
The dispensaries operate under the authority of the state Department of Public Safety.
This is the first arrest or criminal incident related to the Brandon dispensary in the two years since it opened. Ford said she will continue to operate the facility in good faith and stay on mission.
“We helped many, many patients,” she said, “and it’s always heartbreaking when an employee makes a bad decision, but it happens and it may cost them a job, it may cost them a car, we don’t know. It won’t affect our ability to help people.”
“It was a single employee who made a very poor and disappointing choice.”