Law enforcement agencies in Colorado have been cracking down on illegal cannabis activities in the state. Over the course of the summer, authorities in a handful of Colorado counties ended up arresting several individuals and seizing loads of illegal cannabis plants. All told, well over $5 million worth of illicit market cannabis was seized and destroyed.
Authorities Discover Illegal Marijuana Grow Sites
According to a news release from law enforcement in Colorado and as reported by The Denver Post, the crackdown started in at the very beginning of the summer.
Specifically, on May 26, a rancher called the Otero Sheriff’s Office to report that somebody had shot a gun at his 13-year-old son. The rancher’s son was reportedly rounding up the man’s cattle. At the time, the cows were grazing on county land being leased by the rancher.
It turns out, the shooting happened near a suspected illegal marijuana grow operation. And when authorities went to investigate the shooting, they eventually found the site.
By the time the shooting investigation ended, deputies in Otero County found two grow houses. Additionally, they made a number of arrests. Specifically, they busted four men.
Currently, the men are being held in jail. And each has a $50,000 bail. According to local reports, the men are being investigated for drug cultivation and distribution charges.
Scaling Up a Full-Blown Crackdown
From there, law enforcement dramatically ramped up their focus on illegal marijuana grow sites. So much so, in fact, that the dragnet eventually included agents from at least five separate counties.
All told, these investigations led to some massive busts. As summarized by The Denver Post, here’s what authorities cracked down on this summer:
- Agents busted 40 illegal marijuana grow sites.
- Law enforcement agents seized and destroyed almost 6,000 individual cannabis plants.
- All told, the plants that were seized and destroyed amounted to $5.8 million.
- Cops and sheriff’s department agents also seized six guns.
- And finally, law enforcement agents made five arrests. This includes the four who were linked to the original shooting incident, and one other person caught up in the busts later on. The man busted in this fifth arrest is being investigated for drug cultivation charges. He was released after paying $45,000 bond.
In addition to the thousands of cannabis plants destroyed by law enforcement, there were between 5,000 and 15,000 more plants that were seized but not destroyed.
That’s because these plants were reportedly sprayed with a potentially toxic pesticide. As a result, authorities will not destroy these plants until they have been fully inspected by environmental experts.
Illegal Markets Exist—Even in the Age of Legalization
As evidenced by these busts, the illegal cannabis market continues to thrive, even as more and more places legalize marijuana. And Colorado isn’t the only weed-legal state that has seen crackdowns on illegal activities.
In fact, a recent report found that California’s illicit cannabis market is three times larger than the regulated industry. All told, the report said that California has nearly 3,000 unlicensed dispensaries, compared to roughly 900 fully licensed, legal, and regulated ones.
Similarly, a different investigation found that California is being flooded with counterfeit cannabis vapes. This discovery adds to concerns over the recent spate of deaths linked to vaping.