Feds move to seize land in marijuana cases

Alleged grow fields for High Hopes Farm subject of U.S. forfeiture filing
Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, left, and Rep Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, center, are shown with medical marijuana grower James Bowman in 2011 at High Hopes Farm in the Applegate Valley.AP

The federal government is attempting to take possession of two Applegate Valley properties allegedly used by the High Hopes Farm to grow marijuana under the state's medical-marijuana program but in violation of federal laws banning cannabis cultivation.

Federal prosecutors Wednesday filed court papers in U.S. District Court in Portland to launch a forfeiture case against the land where James Bowman grew High Hopes marijuana, even though Bowman doesn't own the properties and has not been charged with a crime.

The registered owner of the five-acre High Hopes Farm property at 700 Upper Applegate Road is Melissa Jean Yager, who federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents believe is Bowman's live-in girlfriend, court filings state.

Bowman and Yager list the property as their residence, according to federal agents.

The nearby 156-acre property at 746 Upper Applegate Road tapped for seizure is owned by William Day Boddorff, who rented a small piece of the property to Bowman for marijuana cultivation at $2,000 a month, a DEA affidavit states.

Boddorff told DEA agents that Bowman told Boddorff not to worry about facing federal seizure because he was following "the letter of the law" of Oregon's Medical Marijuana Program, the affidavit states.

The High Hopes Farm was listed in court papers as containing a nearly 1,300-square-foot, double-wide trailer on it. The Jackson County Assessor's Office lists the property's current market value at $173,350.

The property at 746 Upper Applegate Road has two residences, along with a single-wide manufactured home and outbuildings. The assessor's office lists its current value at $1.27 million.

Both properties were raided Sept. 18 by DEA agents.

Agents seized 601 marijuana plants and about 400 pounds of dried marijuana from High Hopes Farm, though OMMP rules state the property could grow no more than about 400 plants under the program, court filings state.

Agents pulled 206 plants and seized an unspecified amount of dried marijuana from Boddorff's property, which OMMP records state is a registered grow site for up to 354 mature plants, according to an affidavit.

The DEA also disclosed in affidavits that High Hopes Farm has been under surveillance since 2008, with agents taking aerial photographs to identify and count what they believed to be mature marijuana plants growing at the farm.

Agents in July 2010 even used Google Earth satellite-imagery of the farm to identify and count what agents believed were marijuana plants growing there, the affidavit states. Agents also conducted aerial surveillance of both properties in July and again Aug. 29 in preparation of the federal search warrant that led to the Sept. 18 raid, the affidavit states.

Federal laws spell out a process for the government to seek forfeiture of properties involving crimes even without anyone being formally charged with a federal crime.

Bowman, who did time in federal prison for growing marijuana in the 1990s — before Oregon voters made medical marijuana legal — has been an outspoken advocate for legalization, even inviting local lawmakers to his farm in 2011.

Boddorff did not return a telephone call Thursday seeking comment. A telephone number for Yager listed in court filings was disconnected. Bowman could not be located for comment.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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