US: College Marijuana Ring Busted

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Mar 27, 2005
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U-M students are charged in marijuana ring

$120,000 worth of pot seized from sites on campus and off
April 15, 2005


Operation High Grade has nothing to do with academics.

Instead, it's a joint police task force that took down a marijuana sales and growing ring on and around the University of Michigan campus this week.

On Thursday, two weeks before classes end, 11 U-M students were arraigned on charges that range from felony possession with intent to deliver to maintaining a drug house. Four additional students and another man were making arrangements to turn themselves in, police said.

A day earlier, Ann Arbor and Michigan State police raided Bursley Hall, a North Campus dormitory; the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity on Oxford Road, and 13 off-campus residences, police said. Officers seized 34 pounds of high-grade marijuana worth $120,000 during a six-month undercover operation that came to fruition Wednesday with the arrests.

"I would describe this as a network of students who are selling a highly potent form of marijuana in the Ann Arbor area," Ann Arbor Police Chief Daniel Oates said Thursday. "It was sophisticated enough that it involved grow operations and a connected distribution network."

Authorities seized four growing operations during 15 search warrants this week, Oates said. He did not specify which locations produced or sold the bulk of the marijuana.

Additionally, seven more students and one non-student are suspects who have either been arrested or are being sought. Oates declined to discuss those eight suspects.

In total, 22 of the 24 suspects are U-M students.

Of the 11 students arraigned Thursday, seven are from Michigan. The others are from California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Colorado.

Students at Bursley Hall reacted with shock Thursday upon hearing about the busts. Some said they saw officers in the dorm Wednesday but had not heard about the arrests.

"Wow, that's a lot of time and effort to investigate students," said 18-year-old freshman Jessica Hershberg, who lives in the dorm. "That's a lot of pot as well."

One student screamed out: "Bursley Hall, all right." He declined to give his name.

Freshman Brittni Troy, 18, of Brighton said: "That's shocking. I'm glad it's not me."

A possession with intent to deliver felony charge is punishable by up to four years in prison. Maintaining a drug house is a two-year misdemeanor.

Detective First Lt. Garth Burnside of the state police said the potency of the marijuana has a 15 to 25 percent level of THC, marijuana's active ingredient. Burnside said in the 1960s and '70s, THC levels were usually about 2 percent.

Burnside said 50 to 60 undercover buys and surveillance led to the arrests.

"There's no big hit or mother lode that we found this 34 pounds in," he said.

U-M spokeswoman Julie Peterson said she learned of the arrests Wednesday.

"Obviously we were quite concerned and distressed when we learned of this," she said, adding that disciplinary action is also under consideration.

Members of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity declined comment when approached at their home Thursday. A banner with a marijuana leaf hung from one of the windows.

Police unveiled a series of photographs from the raids. One showed a sign that read: "smoking' em, cause we got 'em," with the ZBT fraternity letters.

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