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Natrona pot grower a repeat offender, police say

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 12:26 a.m.
James Kubla--suspect in Natrona marijuana growing operation

A Harrison man accused of having a sophisticated marijuana growing operation inside the former Natrona Fire Hall was busted in 2007 for having more than 500 marijuana plants in his West Leechburg residence.

James Joseph Kubla, 35, of River Road is facing four drug charges, including felony drug manufacturing, after Harrison police discovered an elaborate marijuana growing operation at the fire hall on Saturday after responding to a domestic violence call next door.

It's not the first time that Kubla has been accused of operating a large, indoor growing operation.

In 2007, West Leechburg and other police found about 300 hydroponically grown, mature marijuana plants and about 200 smaller plants and seedlings growing throughout his house.

They also found a 10-gallon picnic cooler and 10-gallon trash bag full of dried marijuana, along with storage boxes full of dried marijuana stems, seeds and leaves.

According to police, Kubla initially said he was growing the pot for his own use.

The marijuana was grown in water and chemicals in a sophisticated setup of lights with plastic reservoirs and piping to keep the mixture circulating.

Police said they needed four dump truckloads to remove the pot and growing materials.

Kubla was charged with possession and possession with intent to deliver. He eventually pleaded guilty to the lesser charge, possession, and avoided a mandatory five-year prison sentence.

He was ordered to serve home detention for nine months and probation and to get counseling.

He also paid about $1,600 for restitution to West Leechburg police for the expense of hauling away the plants and growing equipment.

Harrison Police say that on Saturday, they smelled marijuana when responding to an alleged fight between Kubla and a girlfriend in his River Road residence in Natrona.

Police got a search warrant and on Sunday searched the former fire hall next door, which Kubla owns.

Officers said they found a watering and nutrient-feeding operation designed to produce high-potency marijuana.

“It was a pretty elaborate system,” said Harrison police Chief Mike Klein. “It could flood the roots and then drain and recycle the water.”Police didn't find marijuana plants, only about 2 ounces of mostly marijuana leaves. On Sunday, it took two flatbed trucks and a pickup to haul away the grow lab for evidence, Klein said.

Police on Tuesday said they have an arrest warrant for Kubla on the marijuana charges.

He posted $10,000 bond Saturday and was released pending a preliminary hearing for simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct. A Jan. 29 hearing is scheduled for that case.

In the drug case, Kubla will be arraigned by a district judge and a preliminary hearing date will be scheduled, police said.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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