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Pasco Deputies Bust Two Alleged Marijuana Grow Houses

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office arrested two men in conjunction with raids at two separate alleged marijuana grow houses in Port Richey last week. Whiskell Escandell and Jose Ramon-Escandell were both arrested and charged.

The first house was at 10811 Oldham Road. The sheriff's office reports that 28 live marijuana plants over five feet high were found at the Oldham Road house, along with 22 additional marijuana stalks with root balls that had just been harvested. Detectives also seized about 25 pounds of what they believe to be loose unprocessed marijuana. They also claim that Whiskell Escandell was stealing electrical power to support the Oldham Road growing operation.

The second alleged grow house busted by Pasco County sheriff's deputes was at 8605 Gandy Drive. Investigators claim to have found 30 marijuana plants, along with another 25 pounds of unprocessed marijuana, at the Gandy Drive home. They say that Jose Ramon-Escandell was stealing power at that location. Progress Energy asserts the total power stolen was valued at over $15,000.

According to the sheriff's office, the two men are uncle and nephew. Whiskell Escandell and Jose Ramon-Escandell were both charged with trafficking marijuana and cultivation of marijuana.

If the Escandells are convicted, the trafficking charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison. The cultivation charge is a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or up to a $5,000 fine if they have no relevant criminal history.

Based on the news reports, it is unclear whether the Escandells were charged under Florida's Marijuana Grow House Eradication law. Florida law makes it a second-degree felony to grow 25 or more marijuana plants (the previous threshold was 300 plants). It is a third-degree felony to own a house for the purpose of cultivating, packaging and distributing marijuana and a first-degree felony to grow 25 or more plants in a home with children present.

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