Part 1 in a series
On June 6, Ray Martin McFeters, 73, was charged in Aitkin County District Court with distribution or possession of more than 42.5 grams of marijuana and failure to attach tax stamps to the marijuana.
McFeters is also charged with felony possession of “not a small amount of marijuana” as stated in the criminal complaint filed with the Aitkin County District Court.
McFeters is a retired computer programmer who lives with his wife Patty on the north shore of Mille Lacs Lake. He learned to write code while serving four years with the United States Air Force in crypto maintenance during the Cuban missile crisis. He was honorably discharged in 1964.
“Yeah, I grew a few plants,” McFeters said. “I thought I was doing good by not supporting the cartels and everything like that.”
According to the complaint, McFeters had 22 marijuana plants in various stages of growth.
Aitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Guida first heard there was a marijuana grow at the McFeters’ residence in early 2013 through an anonymous tip. According to the complaint, Guida stopped by the house several times but never found anyone home. On April 13, Guida stated that he saw fresh tracks in the snow near McFeter’s mailbox.
Guida knocked on the front door and spoke to McFeters, who admitted he was growing marijuana. McFeters then led Deputy Guida to his basement.
“He told me he didn’t have a warrant,” McFeters said. “He said he would get one, but he would bring back four or five cop cars with him if I made him get one.”
According to the complaint, the total weight of McFeter’s marijuana came out to 175 grams (just over 6 ounces), more than enough to convict him of both the felony charges he’s facing.
According to McFeters, he had nowhere near that much marijuana. “Only two of the plants were almost ready for harvest, a week or two away,” McFeters said. “He stuffed all the plants in plastic bags and weighed everything — the leaves, the stems, even the dirt on the roots.”
McFeters said he estimates he had less than an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana buds on his plants.
The charge of failing to attach tax stamps to the marijuana carries a maximum penalty of 7 years in prison and/or a $14,000 fine. “I thought they threw that out years ago,” McFeters said. “You got to produce the pot to get tax stamps, but there’s no tax stamps to be got, so it’s a catch-22.”
McFeters said he was certainly guilty of possession of marijuana, but any charge of intent to distribute was absurd. “I’ve never been a dealer. Oh God, no,” McFeters said. “I never have enough for myself.”
McFeters estimates that he smokes between 25 and 30 bowls of marijuana a day. “I go through about an ounce every couple of weeks,” he said.
Patty, his wife of 43 years, said, “I try to get him to slow down when he’s going to run out, but he can’t. He just keeps smoking until it’s gone.”
Patty doesn’t smoke marijuana. “I drink wine coolers, but half of a wine cooler is all I need.”
Ray doesn’t like alcohol. “I tried it but it just made me sick,” he said. “And you can’t do computer programming when you’re drunk, but boy, you can sure do it when you’re stoned. After smoking pot my mind was like zippity-zippity-zippity. I was really good at my job.”
Ray’s retired, never having lost a job in his life. “Nope, I’ve never been fired,” he said.
Patty is supportive of her husband’s habit, and has been for 45 years, since they first met. “The first time he got high I had my concerns, but he was so much better and calmer,” Patty said. “When he smokes pot, he can live with himself and he can live with life. The demons in his head stay down.”
While Ray may be a handful at times, Patty’s gotten used to having him around. “I really don’t want him to go to jail,” she said.
Ray has no plans to hire an attorney. “I can’t afford it, and I’m guilty,” he said. “Are they really going to throw me in jail at my age with all my problems? Think of all the money they’re going to have to spend on me. I just don't get it.”
Ray’s first court date is scheduled for July 1.
Ray was born in 1940 to a family of “Ohio hillbillies,” the youngest of eight children. “My father died when I was 5 years old, and my mother remarried,” Ray said. “I was sexually abused on a regular basis from the time I was five years old. I remember laying in bed at night and just hoping that nobody would grab me.”
Ray was placed in an orphanage when he was eight years old, where he stayed until he graduated from high school. The sexual abuse continued at the orphanage, but according to Ray, it was preferable to the abuse that preceded it.
“At the orphanage I could say no and just walk away,” he said. “But sometimes I would let them so I could get special favors or make a little money.”
See next week’s edition of the Messenger for the second installment of Ray’s story. Story and photos copyright © 2013 Mille Lacs Messenger.