WOONSOCKET â€“ A man who holds a state permit to cultivate and dispense medical marijuana, and his brother, are facing drug trafficking charges after police seized a combined 108 marijuana plants from their home and motor vehicle â€“ far more than the permit allows, police said.
Joseph and Ronald Proia, both of 30 Manila Ave., were ordered held without bail following their arraignment in District Court Tuesday.
Two other men who arrived during a raid of the Proia residence were also arrested, including one for possession of a small amount of marijuana.
Detective Lt. Eugene Jalette said the Proias were running a sophisticated indoor pot farm in the basement of 30 Manila Ave. Joseph Proia, 46, had a caregiverâ€™s license that allows him to be in possession of a certain amount of marijuana for distribution under the stateâ€™s compassionate care laws.
â€śThey were clearly over the limit,â€ť said Jalette. â€śItâ€™s another example of someone with a caregiverâ€™s permit who decides to push the envelope.â€ť
Police were tipped to the grow house by the owner of the tan, two-story colonial, who lives out of state and leases the property to the Proias, Jalette said. She happened to be in the area recently and became suspicious when she detected the smell of marijuana wafting from new aluminum vents that had been installed on the side of the house. Also, she told police some of the windows had been covered with black fabric or plastic from the inside.
In addition to conveying her suspicions to the authorities, the owner advised the Proias that she intended to inspect the house.
Shortly after noon on Friday, she arrived for the inspection to find several individuals loading black trash bags into a gray SUV parked outside the house.
The 2001 Jimmy, operated by Ronald Proia, 40, was stopped by police moments later on nearby Diamond Hill Road. Inside the vehicle, police found 22 freshly harvested marijuana plants stuffed in trash bags.
After obtaining a warrant to search the house, police knocked on the door of 30 Manila Ave. Joseph Proia answered.
â€śI wonâ€™t say it was the strongest odor of marijuana Iâ€™ve ever experienced, but it was very strong,â€ť said Jalette. â€śWhen he opened the door, you could smell it outside.â€ť
Police seized 86 more plants from the basement and garage of the house, in addition to grow lights, ventilation equipment, scales, timers, packaging materials and other paraphernalia, they said.
During the raid, police said Trevor Goulette, 40, of Woonsocket, arrived at the front door. When he saw police inside the house, Goulette allegedly tried to run away. Police later charged him with obstructing and possession of a knife with a blade longer than permitted by law, both misdemeanors.
A fourth man, Nathan Saillant, 19, also of Woonsocket, pulled into the driveway in a black SUV while police were searching the premises. When they asked Sailliant for identification, he directed them to the vehicle, where police allegedly found not just his ID, but a shopping bag containing approximately an ounce of marijuana.
The Proias were charged with one count each of cultivating marijuana with the intent to deliver and possession of more than 5 kilos of the drug, both felonies. A District Court judge ordered the brothers held without bail at the Adult Correctional Institutions pending a review hearing Jan. 13.
Goulette and Saillant were both released on personal recognizance pending further court action hours after they were arrested, according to reports.
Under the compassionate care law, regulated by the Department of Health, the state allows the holder of a valid caregiverâ€™s license to be in possession of as many as 24 mature plants, a dozen seedlings and 2.5 ounces of bagged marijuana, according to Jalette.
Federal agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Woonsocket police vice unit, detectives and uniformed officers were among those who took part in the raid, including Detective Sgt. Tom Calouro, Detective Sgt. Phil Kamer and Patrolman Jamie Martin.