What began as a routine search for illegal bear baits by Department of Natural Resources conservation officers has led to the conviction of a man for growing marijuana on public land.
Mark Alan Derenzy, 54, of Mancelona, Mich., pled guilty to felony delivery and manufacture of a controlled substance in 13th Circuit Court in Antrim County. Derenzy was sentenced in May to 30 days in jail, a year’s probation, $1,232 in fines and attendance at a rehabilitation program. He also forfeited a four-wheel, all-terrain vehicle used in the operation.
Conservation officers discovered the marijuana plants – some up to 8 feet tall – near the Jordan Valley in Antrim County. A week later, while attempting to locate additional plants, the conservation officers encountered Derenzy illegally operating the ATV, without a helmet and in possession of a cooler of cold beer. After issuing Derenzy a ticket, the officers walked into the marijuana patch and found a cold, partially full can of beer matching the brand and lot number of the beer in Derenzy’s possession.
When the officers attempted to contact Derenzy at his home, they overheard Derenzy’s answering machine with a message he was leaving, that he had “run out of gas while trying to avoid the DNR.”
Officers subsequently seized 24 plants and the ATV.
The DNR reminds the public that illegal marijuana growing operations on state-managed land are not uncommon and recommends that anyone who stumbles across marijuana or evidence of gardening operations – tools, fertilizer bags or irrigation equipment – leave the area immediately and report the encounter to authorities.