Drug enforcement officers Thursday arrested an Ashland man for allegedly manufacturing the intense hallucinogenic drug dimethyltryptamine, widely known as DMT, inside his Ashland rental, police said.
Investigators placed placards on a small garage and living quarters in the 500 block of Faith Avenue — stating the premises were inhabitable — where 48-year-old Travis Thane Thompson has lived since 2009, said the property owner, who resides in the abutting home and wished to remain anonymous.
At about 8 a.m., police arrested Thompson, who struggled with officers before being taken into custody, said Medford police Lt. Brett Johnson, commander of the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement team.
"His behavior was kind of odd, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was using," Johnson said, noting police, who were dressed in protective suits and masks, may have frightened Thompson when they woke him up.
Thompson is lodged in the Jackson County Jail on charges of possession of DMT, two counts of manufacture and delivery of DMT within 1,000 feet of a school — Siskiyou School is nearby — possession of methamphetamine and resisting arrest, jail records indicate. He is being held on $64,000 bail.
The search revealed about three pounds of tree bark Thompson allegedly was using to manufacture DMT, some of which was soaking in ether, muriatic acid or kerosene, Johnson said.
The drug, which was discovered by modern science in 1946 in the root bark of the Brazilian shrub Mimosa tenuiflora, is manufactured by processing the drug from one of several plants that contain the psychoactive compound.
"We're still waiting to get a positive ID through the crime lab ... probably by Monday or Tuesday," Johnson said. "We usually have test kits with us, but DMT is so unusual there is no test kit."
Inside Thompson's living area, investigators also found marijuana and "honey oil," a refined oil containing the hallucinogenic properties of marijuana, Johnson said.
Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement, Ashland police, Rogue Area Drug Enforcement and Oregon State Police Drug Enforcement Section executed the search warrant, Johnson said.
Johnson said he does not believe charges will be brought against the elderly landowner or her middle-aged daughter, who also lives in the adjoining house.
"As far as I knew, he was making perfume ... he gave me perfume as a gift as I was so proud that he was making something of himself," the landowner said. "I don't know why he's doing this. I'm surprised, but he knows not to do that."
The woman said police woke her and her daughter before arresting Thompson.
"They starting banging on the door, and I thought there was a fire the way they acted," she said. "They told me to come out, and I came out in my nightgown." Police searched the property for a little less than two hours, she said.
Johnson said police were acting on a tip, and Thursday's police action was the result of two weeks of investigative work.
"It's still under investigation, but we didn't see any perfumes; it was a straight up drug lab," he said.
In front of the house late Thursday, two MADGE investigators were expecting the arrival of Oregon Emergency Response System personnel. The agency is tasked by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to clean drug laboratory sites.
Johnson said the small building housing the alleged lab will have to be inspected and cleared before anyone can enter without protective equipment.
Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.