(John Leyba, Denver Post file)

Arts center CEO faces felony for 7-foot pot plants growing by his front door

Police arrested Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center President and CEO Kenneth Alen Wesler at his Pennsylvania home in September after finding two large marijuana plants just outside his home — one on either side of his front door, according to charging documents.

On Sept. 23, members of the York County Drug Task Force visited Wesler’s home in the 1400 block of Wheatfield Drive, West Manchester Township and discovered the plants, standing between 5 and 7 feet tall, documents state.

“We got an anonymous tip, knocked on the front door and there it was, for anybody to see, whether it be the mailman, the UPS guy,” said Detective Craig Fenstermacher of the York County Drug Task Force. “There was no attempt to hide it, it was right there by the front door.”

More details on the Weslers: Read the full statements from Kenneth and Deborah Wesler’s lawyer and the chairman of the Strand-Capitol board as well as Facebook reactions to the news (“Arrested over a plant. How do people still think this is valuable time spent by law enforcement?”) at our partners The York Daily Record.

West Manchester Township Police Chief Art Smith said in all his years of policing, he has never known of anyone to display marijuana plants outside their front door.

Fenstermacher said the house appeared to at one time have been a farmhouse and was set back from the road.

Kenneth Wesler (The York Daily Record)
Kenneth Wesler (The York Daily Record)

Kenneth Wesler, 50, and wife Deborah Lee Wesler, 54, were home at the time. Both have been charged with one felony and two misdemeanor drug charges.

The Weslers have retained York-based attorney Chris Ferro.

Attorney T.L. Kearney, who works for Ferro, released a statement on behalf of the Weslers Monday afternoon.

“This mistake and deviation of the law was based upon a medical need,” the release reads in part. “The marijuana use by Mr. Wesler was done in the privacy of his home before retiring for sleep to treat his chronic and ongoing back pain. Mr. Wesler never used marijuana during working hours or when driving.”

The couple waived their preliminary hearings before District Judge Keith Albright on Oct. 17 and are now scheduled for a formal arraignment at York County Court of Common Pleas on Nov. 21, according to online court dockets. Bail was set at $2,500 unsecured for each.

Police arrived at the Weslers’ home about 8:15 p.m., found the plants and knocked on the front door. When Kenneth and Deborah answered the door, police explained why they were there and read their Miranda rights.

Kenneth Wesler told police “he smokes marijuana with Deborah and that police would find loose marijuana and paraphernalia in their shared bedroom,” documents state.

Kenneth Wesler also told them they would find several stems, taken from the plants outside, drying in the basement, documents state.

Deborah Wesler told police “We planted the marijuana with the vegetables” and added they did this because they were embarrassed to buy it from a dealer, documents state.

“Deborah stated this was the second year they had attempted to grow marijuana at the residence,” documents state.

Police seized marijuana from the front of the house, in the basement and the Weslers’ bedroom, documents state.

Smith said that when someone grows the plant, even if their intent may be to only use it for themselves and not to sell it, the amount is considered more than for personal use, and so it is a felony.

This story was first published on ydr.com