Judge orders probation in pot plant bust

Steve Garrison
Joseph Hamilton

FARMINGTON — A 26-year-old man arrested in June 2014 for allegedly growing dozens of marijuana plants in a San Juan County greenhouse pleaded no contest to distribution of marijuana on Friday.

Joseph Hamilton pleaded guilty to the fourth-degree felony offense in an agreement with the San Juan County District Attorney's Office, according to court records. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dismissed two misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia possession.

Judge John Dean sentenced Hamilton to 18 months of supervised probation, according to court records. If he does not violate the terms of his probation, the conviction will be erased from his criminal record, records state.

Hamilton's attorney, Arlon Stoker, said the sentence was appropriate for a marijuana offense.

"I guess I'm having a hard time understanding why it's still illegal," Stoker said.

Hamilton was arrested June 28, 2014, after a San Juan County Sheriff's Office deputy found 60 marijuana plants at a greenhouse next to his residence on County Road 2892. Hamilton claimed the greenhouse belonged to his mother.

In 2014, the Region II Narcotics Taskforce seized a total of 245 pounds of marijuana, which was nearly six times the amount seized in 2013. The spike was due in large part to the arrest of Hamilton and a second man, Gilbert Oldfield, 58.

Region II agents seized 43 marijuana plants from Oldfield's residence on County Road 3950 on May 20, 2014. Oldfield was charged in Farmington Magistrate Court with felony marijuana possession, but he later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor marijuana possession in a plea agreement with prosecutors.

San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said in February that his office agreed to the plea bargain because Oldfield had a marijuana grower's license.

Oldfield appealed the misdemeanor conviction, and it was overturned in June, according to court records.

O'Brien did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.