Colorado law enforcement officers, district attorneys and federal authorities collaborated on what they describe as the largest collective marijuana bust in the state’s history.
During a press conference on May 24, Jason Dunn, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado, discussed the two-year investigation that included nearly 250 location searches in eight counties across the state and led to 42 arrests after raids over the last three days.
“To be clear, these grows are not ones that were otherwise legal under state law. These are pure black market,” Dunn said. “We want people to know these grow operations are not occurring in abandoned houses or poorer parts of the metro area. These are happening in middle- and upper-class neighborhoods, [where] many of us live and raise families.”
The investigation was a collaborative effort of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Dunn’s office, several Colorado district attorneys and over thirty local sheriff and police departments. Over 80,000 marijuana plants, 41 homes, 25 vehicles and more than $2.1 million were seized during the busts. Dunn declined to reveal whether those arrested were all part of the same criminal enterprise, citing an open investigation.
Sixteen of the defendants are facing federal charges, while the other 26 will be tried in state courts. The majority of the grows had more than 100 plants, Dunn said, and eleven defendants were charged with growing 1,000 plants. None of the arrested individuals had medical marijuana patient or caregiver cards, he added.
While industry reports claim that Colorado has the smallest black market for marijuana of any state in the country, Colorado district attorneys Dave Young and George Brauchler believe otherwise. During the press conference, both DAs said that recreational pot legalization has led to a rise in large-scale criminal growing operations, taking advantage of state laws that allow individuals 21 and older to grow up to twelve marijuana in their homes to disguise the grows.