Backyard marijuana garden leads to charges for Hamilton man

2013-11-23T13:19:00Z 2013-11-30T15:51:10Z Backyard marijuana garden leads to charges for Hamilton manBy DAVID ERICKSON Ravalli Republic The Billings Gazette
November 23, 2013 1:19 pm  • 

HAMILTON — A backyard marijuana garden and a baggie of methamphetamine led to felony charges for a Hamilton man on Thursday.

Joseph Reuben Birch, 49, appeared before Ravalli County Justice of the Peace Jim Bailey on Thursday and was charged with felony criminal production or manufacture of dangerous drugs and two counts of criminal possession of dangerous drugs and a misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

According to the affidavit, on June 11 of this year, FBI agent Brandon Walter contacted Sgt. Travis McElderry at the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office to inform him that a man had called to complain that Birch was growing marijuana in the backyard of his residence on Milty Lane in Hamilton.

Consented to search

On June 18, McElderry went to the residence where he met Birch’s wife, Mora Birch. When asked, Ms. Birch denied having any knowledge of any marijuana and she voluntarily consented to McElderry’s request to search the backyard.

McElderry allegedly found six mature marijuana plants that were in plain view of the neighbor’s residence. The plants were recovered from the property.

Subsequent attempts to contact Birch by telephone went unreturned. Birch and his wife have no status in the Montana Marijuana Act to possess or cultivate marijuana.

Birch was not located by law enforcement officials until Wednesday, when Cpl. Jake Auch of the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office was on routine patrol in Hamilton when he spotted a green Ford truck which he recognized as belonging to Birch.

Meth found

Auch, aware that Birch was wanted on warrants, stopped the truck. During the arrest, a search yielded an unmarked pill bottle containing a razor blade, a clear plastic baggie with a white residue, a second plastic bag containing a white powdery substance and a third bag containing three prescription amphetamine pills. When questioned, Birch admitted that the residue was methamphetamine, which he had ingested previously.

Bailey set Birch’s bail at $5,000. He is scheduled to appear in Ravalli County District Court on Dec. 11 or Dec. 12.

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