Grants Pass man gets 10 years for selling medical pot

Grants Pass man gets 10 years for selling medical pot
This May 17, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Medford, Ore., shows a medical marijuana growing room on property owned by Jason Nelson of Grants Pass, Ore., the first registered Oregon medical marijuana grower convicted as part of a federal crackdown on abusers of the state law. According to testimony, Nelson was one of three people who gave medical marijuana to a woman who was arrested in Portland, Ore., trying to ship it to Boston for sale. (AP Photo/U.S. Attorney's Office, Medford, Ore.)

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) - A registered medical marijuana grower was sentenced Monday to 10 years in federal prison for conspiring to sell his crop illegally and for having machine guns and other illegal firearms.

Jason Michael Scott Nelson, owner of a Grants Pass bike shop, admitted taking advantage of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program out of greed and apologized to his family, the judge and the prosecutor for his lies.

"I was out of control," Nelson said in U.S. District Court, adding that even after his arrest he tried to grow more marijuana and sell it to "keep myself afloat."

Authorities have said Nelson, 37, was one of four medical marijuana growers from Southwestern Oregon who pooled their harvests and made monthly shipments from Portland to Boston in pods loaded with furniture bought from Goodwill. Police spotted one of the shipments and traced part of it back to Nelson.

When investigators searched Nelson's property, they found a room elaborately set up for growing marijuana, mature and immature plants, and another room hidden behind a gun safe that contained 29 heat-sealed packages of trimmed marijuana buds. Investigators also found the illegal firearms and silencers.

Prosecutor Doug Fong said he asked for the stiff sentence because Nelson lied during his trial, claiming he was growing only for four medical marijuana patients, denying he sold any of it, and trying to shift the blame to his co-defendant, Richard Sherman, who worked in the bike shop and testified to helping Nelson. Fong added that the guns and the fact Nelson was running the operation added to the prison time called for in federal sentencing guidelines.

In arguing for a five-year sentence, defense lawyer Mike Arnold said Nelson developed "this massive growing operation out of a sense of hard work and competitive spirit with other growers."

The judge said he had no doubt Nelson would never commit another crime, but added that he had no choice but to impose a harsh sentence due to Nelson's lying, which would earn him years more in prison if it were prosecuted.

Panner waived the $20,000 fine Nelson offered to pay, saying his family would be facing enough financial difficulties when he got out of prison.

Panner scolded Nelson for trying to shift the blame to Sherman, who worked for him for wages, for putting illegal immigrants in jeopardy by employing them in his growing operation, and for arranging for friends to dismantle a shop building so there was nothing of value for federal authorities to seize.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.