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Suspected pot crop leads to felony charges

A Spring Valley man was charged with two drug-related felonies after authorities rounded up more than 2 pounds of marijuana that he and another man allegedly harvested from a farmland growing operation.

Barry P. Britton, 53, was charged Nov. 20 in Pierce County Circuit Court with one count of manufacturing THC and one count of THC possession with intent to distribute.

The charges stemmed from a St. Croix Valley Drug Task Force investigation into a suspected marijuana growing operation on farmland at 124 County Road BB in the St. Croix County town of Eau Galle.

According to St. Croix County deputies, Britton and another man - identified in the complaint as Woodville resident Michael J. Anderson - grew pot on a farm owned by Anderson’s uncle.

Authorities began investigating after a tip from an anonymous complainant.

Anderson told deputies Oct. 23 that he and Britton grew pot there for two years, but that the first year’s crop was a failure and was destroyed. Their 2015 crop was about 70 plants strong, he told deputies.

Anderson first claimed the 2015 crop was destroyed, noting it was very harsh and “gave him bronchitis.”

He later offered a different version of events.

He and Britton were at the farm tending to the plants when a low-flying helicopter spooked them, Anderson stated. They suspected the helicopter was scouting their illegal grow, according to the complaint.

Anderson told deputies that he and Britton harvested the plants, loaded them into a vehicle and took them to Britton’s Spring Valley home.

Anderson was found with a small amount of pot in his possession during his interview with the deputy.

St. Croix County deputies interviewed Britton at his home on Oct. 23 while executing a search warrant there. He told authorities the two men had been planting pot at the farm for four years.

“Barry stated that this year they decided to ‘go big’ and planted 75 plants,” the complaint states.

The crop was whittled down to about 50 plants after animals destroyed some, Britton told deputies.

He also said an imminent fear of getting caught led to the early harvest.

Pierce County investigators met with Britton at his home, where he brought officers to multiple stash locations on the property. Suspected marijuana - some of which had been packaged in vacuum-sealed bags - was found in a basement freezer, beneath basement steps, in the garage and in two sheds on the property, according to reports.

The complaint states grow lights and pots staged for starting marijuana plants were found in a shed.

The accumulated weight of the plant material confiscated by authorities at the Spring Valley home added up to 2.17 pounds, according to the complaint.

Britton makes his initial appearance on the charges on Dec. 28 in Pierce County Circuit Court.

St. Croix County Assistant District Attorney Ed Minser said prosecutors are reviewing possible charges for Anderson.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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