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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 29, 2002

Hilo coach faces marijuana charges

Associated Press

VOLCANO, Hawai'i — A University of Hawai'i-Hilo coach was in federal custody following his arrest for allegedly cultivating marijuana inside Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island.

The National Park Service announced yesterday that Laron Kortgaard, head coach of the men's tennis team, was arrested last Friday by rangers keeping watching on a marijuana patch off Mauna Loa Road.

The patch was placed under surveillance in December after hikers happened upon 63 plants with an estimated street value of $60,000, Ranger Mardie Lane said. Rangers observed Kortgaard, 45, at the patch on numerous occasions during the last three months, she said.

Kortgaard, who is on parole after serving time in prison for importation of heroin into Hawai'i, was being held at the federal detention center in Honolulu pending charges, Lane said.

Plants native to Hawai'i were uprooted and tossed aside to make room for the marijuana plants, while potting soil and fertilizer were spread over the ground as a plant bed, the park service said.

"Our concern about the harmful impacts of marijuana growing operations on the park's fragile plant and animal resources continues," park Superintendent Jim Martin said. "Not only were native plants destroyed, but weed seeds introduced in the potting soil could eventually sprout and invade the surrounding native woodland."