Hendrick J. Westers

ELMER TWP., MI — With police approaching a large-scale marijuana-growing operation, a 60-year-old man at the scene fled to a canoe and paddled onto his pond. His floating flight from justice didn’t last long, however, before he surrendered and police seized hundreds of plants.

Such was the scene that recently played out on a piece of farmland in the 2000 block of West Frenchline Road in Sanilac County’s Elmer Township.

After receiving numerous tips and complaints of a marijuana operation there, Sanilac Drug Task Force personnel had checked up on the property and observed numerous pot plants growing in a field, in violation of medical marijuana laws.

Just before noon on Aug. 9, police executed a search warrant on the property and attempted to make contact with owner Hendrick J. Westers. Westers, though, had other ideas and fled from his home, jumped in his canoe, and paddled onto his pond, police report.

Westers eventually rowed back to shore and was interviewed by officers. Police say he told them he had five marijuana grow sites on his property. He added he had never applied for any licenses or permits under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

Marijuana plants mixed with other crops on the Elmer Township property of Hendrick J. Westers on Aug. 9. Courtesy Sanilac Drug Task Force.

Police found more than 700 plants throughout the five sites. The amount would have far exceeded state limitations even if Westers were a licensed caregiver.

The MMMA states “a primary caregiver may assist no more than five qualifying patients with their medical use of marihuana.” Caregivers can grow up to 12 plants producing 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana for each of their five patients and themselves. If a caregiver is a patient and has five registered patients, he or she can grow 72 plants.

The plants had been intentionally blended with other crops, apparently to avoid detection, police said.

Police arrested Westers and lodged him in the Sanilac County Jail. He later appeared in Sanilac County District Court for arraignment on two counts of manufacturing or delivering 45 kilograms of marijuana and single counts of maintaining a drug house and assaulting, resisting or obstructing police.

Westers has since bonded out of jail and is next due in court on Aug. 21.

The task force is continuing to investigate and was assisted at the scene by the Sanilac County Sheriff’s Office Uniform Division, Sanilac County Animal Control, and the …read more