Homer police make $1.5 million pot bust

A lucky break and a nose to the wind led Homer Police to make a record $1.5 million cannabis bust last Friday.

With help from the Soldotna Drug Enforcement Unit, police served a warrant on a 4,400-square-foot warehouse on Collie Street off Kachemak Drive and found about 1,000 marijuana plants, many with buds.

In a press release, Homer Police Chief Mark Robl estimated the street value to be between $1 million and $1.5 million. Robl said the plants filled up two big bays in the industrial building near Redden Marine-Kachemak Gear Shed.

While investigating the pot grow, police also contacted the tenant of the building, Joseph V. Gabryszak, 32, after he arrived. Gabryszak had been staying in an apartment in the building.

In a criminal complaint by Sgt. Ryan Browning, Gabryszak admitted the growing operation was his and his alone. Police charged him with three counts of fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, a class C felony, one count for intentionally manufacturing a controlled substance, one for possessing more than 25 marijuana plants and one for maintaining a building used for keeping controlled substances.

Robl credited Browning with finding the grow operation. According to Browning’s complaint, on Feb. 6, Browning had been assisting Alaska State Troopers in searching for a wanted felon near the Gear Shed. Browning parked on Collie Drive near the two-story steel building.

“While he was in the area, he saw that the building was suspicious, with windows blacked out,” Robl said. “He got out of his car and was hit by a very, very strong smell of marijuana.”

Browning applied for and received a search warrant. Soldotna Drug Enforcement Unit and Homer Police officers served the warrant and broke into the building. Along with the plants, they found 59 light ballasts worth $25,000 and other equipment for a hydroponic growing system. The building also had air scrubbers. Police did not find any processed cannabis.

“He had a pretty sophisticated system,” Robl said, estimating an investment of about $50,000 overall.

In the criminal complaint, Browning said Gabryszak told him he’d worked road construction for several years to finance his cannabis grow operation.

“He (Gabryszak) stated it was about to be legal to grow marijuana and he wanted to know if he could do it,” Browning wrote in his complaint.

Under Alaska marijuana regulations to go into effect on Feb. 21, the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Board will start accepting license applications for cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, testing and sale. However, the city of Homer has not yet passed any ordinances regulating commercial cannabis operations. An ordinance to regulate such operations by zoning district is up for second reading at the Feb. 22 Homer City Council meeting. If passed, the East End Mixed Use District that includes Collie Drive would be zoned for all commercial cannabis use.

Another ordinance is up for a second reading that would ban commercial cannabis in Homer. Mayor Beth Wythe also will introduce an ordinance asking for a city vote in October on whether or not to ban commercial cannabis. Wythe will introduce an amendment to the zoning ordinance postponing its implementation until and if voters reject a ban.

Gabryszak is at Wildwood Pretrial Facility in Kenai. According to state online court records, he has no prior criminal history in Alaska.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

More in News

Trees with fall colors populate the Shqui Tsatnu Creek gully as seen from Fourth Avenue on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai to use $770k in grants to remove hazard trees along Shqui Tsatnu Creek

The money will be used to mitigate hazards caused by dead and dying spruce trees over more than 100 acres of city land

Alaska state Rep. David Eastman, a Wasilla Republican, is shown seated on the House floor on April 29, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)
Alaska judge keeps Oath Keepers lawmaker on November ballot

Judge Jack McKenna on Thursday ordered elections officials to delay certifying the result of that particular race

An image purportedly from the computer screen of a digital media specialist for Gov. Mike Dunleavy shows numerous files and folders of campaign advertising. A complaint filed against the governor, plus other individuals and organizations, claims administrative staff is illegally doing paid campaign work on behalf of the governor. (Screenshot from complaint filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission)
Dunleavy faces more accusations in campaign complaint

Governor calls it “specious and unfounded.”

A recent photo of Anesha "Duffy" Murnane, missing since Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo provided, Homer Police Department)
A 2019 photo of Anesha “Duffy” Murnane, who went missing since Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer. (Photo provided, Homer Police Department)
Calderwood indicted for murder

Indictment charges man accused of killing Anesha “Duffy” Murnane with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault.

Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20 of that year. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council gives Triumvirate more time to build theater

The Kenai City Council voted last summer to conditionally donate a 2-acre parcel of city land near Daubenspeck Park and the Kenai Walmart

Leaves fall at the Kenai Senior Center on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Senior Center makes plans for $715,000 endowment

The money comes from the Tamara Diane Cone Testamentary Trust

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire
On Thursday morning at what police described as an active crime scene, JPD Officer Austin Thomas and Officer Taylor Davis walk the fielded area which was blocked off by crime scene tape. Multiple tents and a police vehicle sat in the field where the tape surrounded, another police vehicle sat in a dirt parking area.
No arrests made as Juneau death investigation continues

Shortly before 4 p.m. Wednesday that a woman’s body was found

Damage from the remnants of typhoon Merbok can be seen in Golovin, Alaska, on Sept. 20, 2022. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has requested a federal disaster declaration for areas in western Alaska affected by the storm. (Photo by Jeremy Cubas/Office of the Governor)
Damage from the remnants of typhoon Merbok can be seen in Golovin, Alaska, on Sept. 20, 2022. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has requested a federal disaster declaration for areas in western Alaska affected by the storm. (Photo by Jeremy Cubas/Office of the Governor)
Repair work begins in some Alaska towns slammed by storm

About 21,000 people living along a 1,000-mile stretch of Alaska’s western coast were affected by the storm

Camille Broussard testifies in support of an advisory planning commission in Nikiski during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly approves advisory planning commission for Nikiski

The commission area as petitioned and approved covers just over 3.5 million acres

Most Read