9-year-old snitches on parents for growing pot

A 9-year-old girl recently walked into a police station in the western Minnesota town of Barnesville and calmly reported her parents for growing marijuana inside their home.

"Her and one of her friends came here and just had these concerns about her parents," Barnesville Police Chief Dean Ernst tells us, adding that the friend was about the girl's age.

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The girl explained she was bothered by the smoke.

"[Her parents] would smoke it in the house, and when she would smell the smoke, she said she didn't like the smell, it made her sick," Ernst says. "And they would blow the smoke into their dog's face or nose and she didn't like that, said it was bad for the dog."

Police got a search warrant. Inside the home they found eight plants growing in a basement room.

"I want to say it was approximately an 8-foot-by-8 foot room, with growing lights in there," Ernst says. "They had an air conditioner to keep the temperature regulated and stuff like that. It wasn't like a regular basement -- in the kitchen area they had a trapdoor that basically gave access down in there. It was more of a crawlspace area."

In addition to the plants, an amount of dried marijuana "consistent with what an individual user would have" was found in the home, along with drug paraphernalia. The girl told cops her parents also sold pot, according to Ernst.

Charges haven't yet been brought against the couple -- "investigators are still finishing a couple things up," Ernst tells us, without providing their names -- but they voluntarily agreed to let the girl stay with her grandparents for the time being.

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"Rather than having Social Services take the child out, [the parents] just agreed to let the girl stay with the grandparents for a couple days, until things settle down around the house," Ernst says. "The girl wasn't officially removed."

The parents have lived in Barnesville for only about six months. While they had stayed out of trouble during that time, "they had a similar thing happen in a neighboring county, but we weren't aware of that until we applied for a search warrant and starting digging into this case, Ernst says, adding that he doesn't believe marijuana cultivation "is very widespread in this area."

Asked whether he was surprised by how the little girl handled the situation, Ernst replies, "Not necessarily."

"You kinda look at how kids are looking out for the best interests of parents, and you think about similar situations where a lot of times kids will tell parents not to smoke cigarettes because they're concerned for their health," Ernst says. "She knew the police department would be the best people to help her with that problem. I don't think she intended for them to get in trouble, but she wanted them to stop."

Send your story tips to the author, Aaron Rupar. Follow him on Twitter @atrupar.