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Mike Nowatzki, Published July 25 2009

Police bust hallucinogenic mushroom-growing operation

Fargo police serving a search warrant on a suspected drug dealer’s apartment seized a laundry list of illegal drugs, including hallucinogenic mushrooms growing “within arm’s reach” of a baby’s crib, according to court documents filed Friday.

Jason Vernon Allen, 26, was arrested Thursday and charged Friday in Cass County District Court with six drug-related felony counts, one felony count of child endangerment and a misdemeanor for possession of drug paraphernalia.

According to the search warrant affidavit, a suspect being debriefed on July 14 told a narcotics investigator that Allen was growing mushrooms in the closet of his apartment at 4255 9th Ave. Circle S.

Police went to the apartment June 17 and smelled marijuana odor and confirmed it was coming from Allen’s apartment, the affidavit states.

They returned with the search warrant Tuesday. When no one answered the door and the manager’s key wouldn’t work, they forced open the door and searched the place, the police report states. No one was inside.

Among the items seized were mushrooms growing in the bedroom closet, 4.7 grams of mushrooms in the kitchen cupboard and more mushrooms on a clothes hanger drying by the stove, the police report states.

Detectives also seized 142.3 grams of marijuana, including bags wrapped for sale, 2.2 grams of cocaine and a snort tube in the living room, three ecstasy pills in a briefcase in a bedroom, smoking devices, scales and $1,065 in cash, the report states.

The apartment manager told police that Allen lived alone but had a new baby boy who often stayed with him, the report states.

Many of the illegal items were next to the baby’s personal items, “and the crib was within arm’s reach of the mushroom growing operation,” the report states.

Fargo police Sgt. Ross Renner, who until Jan. 1 worked the narcotics beat, said he’s seen a mushroom-growing operation only one other time in Fargo.

“It’s not all that common,” he said, adding that the hallucinogenic drug also isn’t that popular locally, possibly because of its potential side effects.

The physical side effects of psilocybin mushrooms include nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, drowsiness and lack of coordination, according to the U.S. Justice Department. The psychological effects include hallucinations and an inability to discern fantasy from reality and may also include panic reactions and psychosis.

Renner said it’s not unusual to find children in residences where drugs are being used or sold.

“There’s quite a few times where we will see young kids in a residence and you’ll see drug paraphernalia throughout the residence,” he said.

Allen did not return a message left at a phone number listed for him in court documents. His attorney, Steven Light of Fargo, was in court in Bismarck on Friday and could not be reached for comment.

Allen was released from jail Friday afternoon upon posting $1,000 bail with a promise to appear in court.

The Class B felony charge he faces for manufacture of psilocybin carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years.

Allen was convicted in November 2007 in Cass County District Court of possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to two years in prison, conditionally suspended, with two years of supervised probation, according to Forum archives.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528