Marijuana and cultivation paraphernalia police say the confiscated from a North Adams home.
Update on Wednesday, Jan. 8, at 3 p.m.: The identification of a third member of the family was incorrect in an earlier version of this article.
"Misidentification by the mother at the scene triggered those charges," said Det. John LeClair. "Now the charges will be amended and brought against the other adult son."
The individual's name will not be released until his identity is confirmed in court documents.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A former high school teacher and the owner of local toy store are facing charges related to growing and selling marijuana after police confiscated nearly $16,000 worth of cultivated weed and 14 plants.
Whitney Suters, 46, and Monique Suters, 44, and a third person to believed to be their son, have been charged with possession with the intent to distribute a Class D substance, manufacture/cultivation of a Class D substance and conspiracy to violate the Controlled Substances Act. Monique Suters operates Persnickety Toys in North Adams.
Whitney Suters is also facing a charge of assault and battery on an officer.
The family was arrested after police responded a 911 hangup redirected from state police in Northampton at about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 4.
Police Officers Trevor Manning and David Lemieux responded to the East Quincy Street home where they said Monique Suters told them a water pipe had broken and was draining into the home's electrical service.
She asked that the officers attempt to find the shut off but police said when they went into the basement her husband attempted to prevent them from entering a basement room by pushing them, resulting in his arrest and the assault charge.
Whitney Suters said on Wedesday that he received an emergency call from his wife and drove home from Cheshire and entered the basement to find two police officers standing at a closed door. Firefighters were also there.
Officers reportedly encountered "a strong odor" of raw and harvested marijuana as well as other evidence of cultivation and requested detectives. A search warrant received from Northern Berkshire District Court was executed at about 6:40 a.m. on Sunday.
Police said they found two pounds of marijuana, 14-small to medium-height marijuana plants, plastic baggies and three digital scales with marijuana residue on the measuring plates in the basement and that a table was set up for the manicuring and production of marijuana for street-level sales. A small area was set up for the cultivation of marijuana with lighting systems and soil.
Officers said they located two more pounds of marijuana in six separate bags on the second floor in a closet, making a total of four pounds seized.
Police allege that Monique Suters and her son removed marijuana plants from the basement and placed them into black trash bags to avoid their detection and stashed the two pounds of marijuana in the upstairs closet to hide it.
The value of the marijuana seized is $4,000 a pound, said police.
Whitney Suters posted on his Facebook page on Monday that he was preparing for a roller coaster ride.
"I hope my lessons have taught me well enough to keep up the faith and the fight; peace and love to all, the calm before the storm is fading fast. Talk with you all tomorrow if your [sic] still my friend."
The former Drury Spanish teacher may find more support than he thinks. Nearly 300 comments have been posted on the Police Department's Facebook report, many decrying the arrests as a waste of taxpayer money and as "destroying the lives of people."
"We're losing good people and loved ones everyday to herione [sic] and pills but you wanna worry about some stoners," wrote commenter John Vincent Toromino.
Massachusetts, both times by ballot initiatives, has decriminalized possessing small amounts of marijuana and opened the door to medical marijuana dispensaries. Colorado and Washington have legalized (and regulated and taxed) the use of marijuana. A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans think it should be legalized.
But even as sentiments are changing toward recreational and medicinal use of marijuana, it remains an illegal substance in most states and at the federal level.
"As a LAW Enforcement agency, we do not get to pick and choose which laws we wish to enforce and which we do not," the Police Department posted in response to the torrent of criticism.
Correction: The Persnickety Toys in Pittsfield is no longer associated with the Suters. iBerkshires regrets the error.
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