The Californication of Colorado took a big step forward on Wednesday, at least in terms of law enforcement actions aimed at marijuana growers. A coordinated raid by the North Metro Drug Task Force on 25 homes, including several in Adams County and one in Erie, netted 16 arrests on charges of racketeering, distribution of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, conspiracy to distribute marijuana and money laundering. About 10 more arrests are expected in the coming days.
Several news outlets have quoted task force officials as saying that the busts had nothing to do with medical marijuana, but who also hinted that those arrested used the medical marijuana law to cover their illegal activities.
Agencies involved in the operation, code named Sweet Leaf, came from sheriff’s departments in nearly every county north of Denver and included agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the IRS and even the Postal Service. The suspects are believed to have grown the marijuana for distribution to other states, including by mailing it. There were also arrests in Breckenridge.
KMGH reports that the raids resembled paramilitary operations at some locations, including at a house in Northglenn where officers used armored cars and flash-bang grenades while executing a search warrant. The cul-de-sac near West 104th Avenue and Melody Drive was shut down early Wednesday morning with about 20 emergency vehicles, including police cars, ambulances and fire trucks, the station reported on its website.
Despite the very high profile of marijuana in Colorado, equally high-profile crackdowns are less frequent than in California, where in some years such raids are a monthly occurrence. The Colorado honeymoon may well be over; U.S. Attorney John Walsh sent letters of warning earlier this month to Colorado dispensaries within 1,000 feet of elementary schools that the hammer will soon fall if they don’t relocate. Distribution of controlled substances within 1,000 feet of a school is a sentencing enhancement that can double penalties upon conviction.
He described the pending legal action as a “first wave” of more to come, but marijuana growers—medical or otherwise—may be seeing the first ripples come ashore.