Couple sentenced for illegal marijuana grow operation in Birch Bay

After being charged with the illegal possession of hundreds of marijuana plants in January 2015, a Birch Bay couple received a three-month sentence in superior court last week.

Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies seized more than 1,000 marijuana plants from the property of Steve Hovander, 66, and Starlare Hovander, 64, located on 3591 Birch Bay-Lynden Road, on two separate raids in 2014 and 2015 and another raid on 10453 Mount Baker Highway in 2015.

On October 13, Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis issued a three-month sentence for the illegal manufacturing and possession of marijuana.

According to court records, 395 plants and 154 pounds of processed marijuana, amounting to $1.3 million in value, was found at the Birch Bay property in 2014. After deputies caught the scent of marijuana wafting from the property, they were granted another warrant, which led to the seizure of another 639 plants in 2015. Another warrant was issued for the property on Mount Baker Highway in 2015 and led to the discovery of another 173 plants, according to court records.

Whatcom County sheriff’s deputy Ryan Rathbun first caught wind of the Birch Bay grow operation in October 2014 after talking with a group of people who said they had been employed to clip marijuana buds. Starlare claimed to have a valid license to grow; however, at the time, the license had not been approved by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, according to records.

Prior to Judge Montoya-Lewis convicting the couple last week, the Washington State Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by Judge Ira Uhrig and denied the couple’s appeal in a separate case, which resulted from another raid and subsequent seizure of 256 marijuana plants from the Mount Baker Highway property in 2011.

The couple pled guilty on October 13 to manufacturing and possessing marijuana with the intent to deliver, a class C felony, in the most recent case. As part of the sentence, Judge Montoya-Lewis ordered the two to serve their original sentence from 2011. They can serve the three-month sentence on jail alternatives, such as participation in a community work crew or home detention.

  1. I feel like I wish law enforcement officials would hone their focus onto more important matters than marijuana. If we’re talking drugs – how about cracking down harder on meth labs and the makers of synthetic marijuana? Both are much more dangerous than plain old pot is.


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