January 13, 2011

Waterville police arrest man with self-contained pot nursery

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- Police get all sorts of odd calls, but nothing quite like the one they got Tuesday night.

click image to enlarge

INTERESTING EQUIPMENT: Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey inspects the inside of a large, self-contained plant-growing unit with lights, fans and a watering system that was confiscated Tuesday night from two men pushing the unit down Green Street. Police found marijuana residue inside.

Staff photo by David Leaming

A woman from Green Street reported seeing two men pushing what appeared to be a huge tool box down the street and that it was making a lot of noise.

As it turns out, it was a large, self-contained marijuana-growing unit with lights, fans and a watering system inside, according to police Chief Joseph Massey.

"It's the first time I can remember when we have seized such an elaborate, sophisticated, self-contained unit, in all the search warrants that we've conducted over the years," Massey said Wednesday morning.

Justin Leibowitz, 34, of 14A Kennebec St., was summonsed and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia in connection with the incident. Massey said police found marijuana residue and leaf flakes inside the box, which measures 41/2 feet long, 2 feet wide and 4 feet tall.

Police have seen sheds and garages converted into marijuana-growing operations with makeshift watering systems, but the metal box is unusual, according to Massey:

"This very elaborate and high-tech; it has the ability to automatically turn on the watering and other systems by electronic means."

After the Green Street resident called police around 11:45 p.m., Sgt. Daniel Ames and an officer noticed hard-packed snow formed by the wheels of the metal unit during a patrol of the area.. They also saw two men at 32 Green St., near a small shed, Massey said.

Ames recognized one of the men as Leibowitz and asked the pair if they had seen anyone pushing a large box, according to Massey.

"One of the individuals said, 'Yeah, we were pushing a nursery -- do you want to see it?' He pushed the shed door open and Ames said in the middle of the shed was a very large white box."

Massey said one of the men was more than willing to tell Ames that it was a nursery for growing plants.

"He opened the door to show Ames, and there was nothing in it, although Ames could see on the bottom of the shelving what we call 'shake' -- partial leaves and residue. He could smell strong odor of marijuana."

At that point, Leibowitz walked away, and the other man told police he had helped Leibowitz, his friend, push the box from Leibowitz' apartment to his home (at 32 Green), Massey said.

"The individual told Ames it was Leibowitz's unit, so Ames went over to 14A Kennebec St. where Leibowitz denied the unit was his -- denied that he even knew (the other man)."

Ames summonsed Leibowitz, and then police took the box to the Police Department, according to Massey. Leibowitz is scheduled to appear in Waterville District Court Feb. 8.

The hydroponic growing system has a label on its front showing a green leaf and the name of the company that sold the box -- BC Northern Lights, of Surrey, British Columbia.

The company's website lists the unit as a Bloombox TM V3 and says the grow boxes are "safe, secure, and 100 % legit, and we ship grow boxes twice a month all over the world ..."

Contacted Wednesday, a company spokesman named "Blair," who declined to give his last name, said the grow boxes are used for growing medical marijuana. The cost of the Bloombox is $3,600, he said.

Massey said Leibowitz in 2003 was convicted of heroin possession and violation of conditions of release; in 2006 he was convicted of aggravated trafficking and possession of a firearm by a felon; in 2009, disorderly conduct; and in 2010, disorderly conduct again.

Possession of drug paraphernalia is a civil violation, punishable by a fine -- not jail time, according to Massey.

Amy Calder -- 861-9247


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