Federal agents joined with state and local police to raid what they said were illegal marijuana grows in eastern Colorado in April.
Law enforcement served search warrants at more than two dozen sites in a region stretching from Colorado Springs to Denver. The raids were all related, according to the Denver Post, and a spokesman for the DEA acknowledged several arrests but declined to offer more specifics about the busts.
The spokesman said a cross-Colorado police task force led the raids. The Colorado attorney general’s office will prosecute the unnamed defendants, according to the DEA and officials with the task force.
The warrants were sealed, meaning reporters had no access to details of the operation. Search warrants typically are treated as public documents, and affidavits attached to them include information about why courts issue them.
30 sites searched
A spokeswoman for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office confirmed her agency was involved and helped federal agents serve the warrants. They were served at multiple locations, she said, but she wouldn’t say what agents were looking for. A source told the Post officers searched roughly 30 sites.
The raids, though unexplained, were likely part of a statewide effort to stop farmers who grow marijuana illegally and then ship it to other parts of the country. U.S. Attorney John Walsh told reporters he wants to ensure Colorado doesn’t grow and export cannabis like a large portion of Northern California.
“We are working very hard to make sure Colorado doesn’t assume a similar role in the marijuana trade,” Walsh said. The number of cases connected to that effort is growing, he said.
Larger grows require special licences
Adults in Colorado can legally grow up to six cannabis plants at home as long as the cultivation is confined to an “enclosed, locked space.” But larger grows are illegal unless they are licensed by the state. And some local governments have limited the legal number of plants at a single home or placed zoning restrictions on home gardens.
The smell of illegal plants is typically what draws the attention of police, said Brian Ruden, owner of a chain of Denver pot shops.
“Even one plant, if it’s near the end of its flowering cycle, and you’re not using odor control, you can smell it,” Ruden said.
At least one of the sites raided in April was located in the Denver area, and neighbors said the cannabis odor lingered long after several men were arrested at the house. Police dug up a large number of plants and stacked them on the sidewalk.
Next door neighbor Joshua Bower said he heard loud bangs coming from the house about 5 a.m. April 14, followed by a large number of officers breaking through the door. They proceeded to dig up cannabis plants and haul them to the sidewalk. Bower said he knew marijuana was grown at the house but had no idea it was planted in commercial quantities.
“I definitely didn’t know it was at that level,” he said. “You could smell it.”
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