A former Jackson County developer could spend at least five years in prison after pleading guilty Monday to participating in a scheme to funnel excess medical marijuana into the black market.
A federal plea document shows that Michael Reed Peru, 70, has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess 100 or more marijuana plants.
The maximum sentence Peru faces is 40 years in federal prison. The mandatory minimum sentence is listed as five years for these crimes.
The document suggested that Peru might receive less than the five-year penalty if he agrees to take full responsibility for the crimes. In addition, prosecutors could forgo the mandatory sentence based on Peru's
Calls made to prosecuting Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Fong were not immediately returned Tuesday. A call placed to Peru's home in Medford also was not returned.
Peru was arrested earlier this year with five other men accused of growing at least 4,000 pounds of excess marijuana at medical gardens in Medford and Central Point last year, according to a federal affidavit.
The buds from these plants were drying when Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided the farms on Dark Hollow, East Gregory and Table Rock roads in October, the affidavit says.
Along with Peru, Brian Wayne Simmons, Clifford Ruhland, Caleb Joseph Kulp and Scott Grantski were charged with manufacture, delivery and possession of marijuana.
They have yet to issue plea deals in the case, court records show.
Prosecutors believe Peru was a major player in the crimes, which include moving pounds of Southern Oregon marijuana up Interstate 5 for sale in Washington.
He made local headlines about eight years ago when he tried to build a golf course on private and environmentally sensitive public land at the site of the Billings Ranch in north Ashland.
As part of the plea deal, Peru has agreed to forfeit two vehicles, a John Deere Gator, a trailer, marijuana-growing equipment, a post pounder, trimmers and $11,390 in cash to the government.
Peru's plea was accepted Tuesday by U.S. District Court Judge Allen Panner.
Peru signed a plea petition that stated that he participated in the crimes listed and that he acknowledges that he will not be eligible for parole since he was convicted in federal court.
He is eligible to earn 54 days of good behavior early release time for every year he is incarcerated, the plea petition shows.
Oregon Medical Marijuana Program guidelines allow a registered grower to produce six mature plants 12 inches or taller per patient, for up to four patients.
There is no limit to the number of growers per site. But all the marijuana produced must belong to the patients, who can possess only 1.5 pounds of usable buds at one time.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.