A middle school physical education teacher in the Prior Lake-Savage School District has been charged with felony possession and sale of drugs after authorities found 47 marijuana plants growing on her property in Farmington, along with scales and other drug paraphernalia, according to court documents.
Lori Jo-Meyer Abeln, 51, worked at Hidden Oaks Middle School in Prior Lake and taught eighth-grade phy-ed before she went on medical leave in the fall, said Kristi Mussman, communications coordinator for the district. When her medical leave is over, Abeln will be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal investigation, Mussman said. She did not know how long Abeln’s medical leave was scheduled to last.
Abeln did not return a message Thursday.
The charges are two felony counts of fifth-degree controlled substance crimes and one petty misdemeanor of possession of drug paraphernalia. She will make her first court appearance in about four to six weeks.
The criminal complaint, filed this week, said no one was at Abeln’s home on Oct. 16 when the Dakota County Drug Task Force searched her house and property. Agents found 47 marijuana plants growing in a greenhouse, marijuana seeds, a scale, glass and wooden pipes, a glass jar containing marijuana and other paraphernalia.
The complaint said the marijuana plants weighed 550 grams, or just under 1.25 pounds.
Officers from the task force talked to Abeln eight days after the search. She told them that she knew the plants were on the property but said someone had thrown seeds into the greenhouse years ago and the plants grew. She said she didn’t actively take care of the plants.
She admitted using marijuana for medical reasons but told officers that the pipes and other drug paraphernalia didn’t belong to her.
County Attorney Jim Backstrom said there is no indication that Abeln had sold or given any drugs to children.
“Marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug,” Backstrom has said. Using the drug for medical purposes is illegal in Minnesota.
If Abeln is convicted and is a first-time drug offender she is unlikely to serve any prison time for the offense. Punishment could range from jail to drug treatment or a fine.
According to state records, she is on already on probation for three misdemeanor incidents of theft or theft by swindle, two in Dakota County and one in Hennepin County. She also has two drunken-driving convictions on her record as well as other traffic violations.