The Columbian / Associated Press

Vancouver man pleads guilty in pot case


A Vancouver man accused of running an illegal marijuana business was sentenced Thursday to 75 days, but he may be able to serve his time through the jail’s education release program.

Adam L. Alexander, 31, pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court to delivering marijuana and money laundering following a monthslong investigation last year into his business, Grow Systems Northwest, that culminated in a drug raid.

“I went into this with honorable intentions and admittedly made some mistakes,” Alexander told the court, adding that he was now accepting the consequences.

The Clark-Vancouver Regional Drug Task Force began investigating Alexander’s business, at 6502 N.E. St. Johns Road, in April 2015. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board verified that the business had not applied for a license to grow, manufacture or distribute recreational marijuana, and wasn’t in the process of applying. The business also was not in compliance with state medical marijuana laws, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Superior Court.

The Drug Task Force served search warrants at the business and two residences, including Alexander’s, on July 2. Investigators found marijuana plants in both homes, including about 17 pounds of marijuana inside Alexander’s residence. They also recovered more than 10 pounds of marijuana, cash and about 16 plants at the business, the affidavit said.

Alexander told police he had been growing and selling marijuana for several years, acting under medical marijuana guidelines, and operating his business since April 2013. He estimated that he served a few hundred customers per day and brought in $5,000 to $10,000 in cash daily, court records said.

He said he only provided consultation services and didn’t sell recreational marijuana. Customers would ask for one to 10 minutes or more of consultation, and each minute represented $10. Afterward, the customer would then receive whatever marijuana strain he or she asked for. Alexander said he paid approximately $7,000 a month in state excise taxes, according to court documents.

Police additionally served search warrants at a Bank of America branch and JPMorgan Chase Bank location. They found that during an 11-month period ending in November 2014, there were 72 cash deposits totaling about $270,000 with Bank of America. The cash was deposited into Grow Systems Northwest accounts established by Alexander in December 2013. Approximately $162,000 in cash was withdrawn from these accounts, court records show.

Bank of America later terminated the accounts because of excessive cash transactions inconsistent with Alexander’s stated business activity. In January 2015, a cashier’s check totaling $11,121 was issued to the business and was deposited at JPMorgan Chase Bank, according to the affidavit.

Alexander was facing two counts of manufacturing marijuana, two counts of possessing marijuana with the intent to deliver, money laundering and 14 counts of delivering marijuana. However, those charges were amended as part of a plea deal.

His defense attorney, Jack Green, said Alexander is a passionate advocate for medical marijuana.

Green said the situation became a moral conflict for his client, because if Alexander had obtained a license to sell recreational marijuana, he would have had to abandon his work as a medical marijuana advocate.

Alexander’s business was operating out in the open for several years, Green added. “This wasn’t a for-profit, under-the-table, run-of-the-mill drug transaction,” Green said in an interview. Still, it would have been too risky to go to trial, he said.

Since his arrest, Alexander has returned to college, Green said, and is about to graduate from Washington State University.

Judge Scott Collier agreed to follow the attorneys’ previously agreed-upon sentencing recommendation and ordered 12 months of community custody.

Alexander will remain out of custody while he’s screened for the release program. He was given credit for four days already served in the jail.