Two face drug charges after OSP arrest

Police know pot-growing season has arrived in Southern Oregon when they start finding cars on Interstate 5 loaded with starter marijuana plants in pots.

Oregon State Police troopers arrested two men and seized 565 small marijuana plants from a pickup early Tuesday during a traffic stop on Interstate 5 in the Medford area.

At 2:10 a.m. Tuesday two OSP troopers stopped a 2001 Ford F-150 pickup that was seen speeding north on I-5 near milepost 32, just south of Central Point, according to an OSP news release said.

During the stop, troopers saw growing marijuana seedlings in the bed of the pickup and rear passenger seat, the news release said. Their search led to the seizure of 565 plants and a bag containing about 11 ounces of processed marijuana.

The pickup's driver, Carlos Cardenas-Fonseca, 20, and passenger, Jose Antonio-Velazco, 28, were arrested and lodged in the Jackson County Jail on charges of possession, distribution and manufacture of marijuana. The pair were held without bail while Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials determined if they were in the country legally.

Both men show Gervais addresses, according to Department of Motor Vehicle records.

They gave OSP investigators false names at the time of their arrests.

The bust was the opening salvo in the coming marijuana-growing season, which began in earnest this month, OSP Lt. Kelly Collins said.

"We are going to see a lot more marijuana plants heading up and down the freeway in the next month or so," Collins said. "These plants are often potted like this and are transplanted in outdoor grows."

OSP is attempting to determine where the suspects were heading with the plants, Collins said. Collins said the men had the bulk of the plants hidden in the pickup's bed, along with some contained in the Ford's extended cab backseat.

OSP troopers say they often find suspects transporting camping equipment along with the marijuana plants, suggesting they are heading to outdoor growing operations hidden in the forest.

In Tuesday's arrest, three seedlings were planted in each pot. The plants can grow several feet high and produce pounds of high-grade marijuana, Collins said.

"Had they been allowed to mature, they would have been very valuable," he said.

The late spring rain drenching Southern Oregon and Northern California could produce a bumper crop of marijuana, Collins said.

"These plants like a lot of water and we're certainly getting it right now," Collins said. "And it is going to rain and then turn 80 to 90 degrees, which produces humid weather that's good for the plants."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail

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