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Arrests made for abuse of medical marijuana law

Police seized about 225 pounds of marijuana from three men who allegedly grew and distributed more pot than is legally allowed under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, police said.

The monthlong investigation started when authorities in Minnesota called local police regarding a case that had ties to Southern Oregon.

On Dec. 17, an undercover officer bought 65 pounds of marijuana from two people in a restaurant parking lot in Grants Pass. From information gained from this buy, officers were able to obtain three search warrants in Josephine and Jackson counties.

All three locations were reportedly tied to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, Oregon State Police said in a news release.

The first house was in the 100 block of Sheraton Drive in Williams. Investigators allegedly found 11 pounds of marijuana in the home. In addition, evidence associated with drug sales was seized. Arrested was Robert Bell, 46, on drug-related charges.

Police then searched two homes in the 2500 block of Eastside Road in Jacksonville.

At one of the residences, officers seized 131 pounds of marijuana and three firearms. Arrested was Pedro Gavaliz, 49, on drug distribution charges, OSP said.

At the second home on Eastside Road, which police described as a "sophisticated indoor marijuana growing operation," police seized 48 mature plants, approximately 20 pounds of processed and packaged marijuana, six firearms (including two assault rifles) and an undisclosed amount of cash.

Jacob Thompson, 26, was arrested while leaving the house. Police alleged that he was carrying six ounces of marijuana and a firearm.

Police are anticipating additional arrests in association with the homes on Eastside Road.

The pot seized during the investigation has an estimated street sale value of $750,000, OSP said.

Oregon law limits medical marijuana growers to six mature plants, 18 seedlings and 24 ounces of usable marijuana per patient at any one time. "Usable" refers to dried leaves and flowers with medicinal value.

"This is an excellent example of law enforcement agencies, inside and outside Oregon, combining resources to aggressively identify and arrest those responsible for the distribution of illegal narcotics in our local communities," said OSP Sgt. Jim Johnson.

OSP was assisted in the case by the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement Team (MADGE), Grants Pass Department of Public Safety detectives and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.