Colorado: Crackdown Coming For Illegal Marijuana Grows In Colorado Springs
By Steve Elliott
A crackdown is coming in Colorado Springs, according to Mayor John Suthers, who said he expects hundreds of busts of illegal marijuana growers in the coming months.
Those busts are targeting unregistered, commercial-sized operations run by out-of-state residents, mainly from Florida and with ties to cartels, according to law enforcement officials, reports Kaitlin Durbin at The Gazette.
What that hopefully means is that the focus won't be on small-time home grows, where average stoners cultivate a few more plants than 12 legally permitted under Amendment 64, the legalization initiative approved by Colorado voters back in 2012.
"If you look at who is being busted in Pueblo and who will be busted in Colorado Springs over the summer, you can tell: These are organized crime," Suthers claimed. "A lot of them Cubans coming up from Central America, and they're buying or leasing homes, making huge amounts of money (and) trashing the homes."
"There's no question, in Colorado Springs we have large illegal grow operations in several hundred homes," Suthers said.
Two Denver drug enforcement agents last month told the City Council they have identified at least 186 large-scale marijuana grows operating in Colorado Springs and trafficking products to the Midwest and East Coast. Some of the drugs are getting into Mexico, the agents claimed.
Agents didn't specify whether they have busted any of those growers.
Colorado Springs police are taking their time investigating alleged illegal grow operations in the city, Suthers said.
"If you just bust a bunch of mules - the folks immediately growing and selling - without being able to figure out exactly what the scope and reach of the organization is, it doesn't do much good," the mayor said. "They'll replace those quickly."
The Colorado Springs City Council has passed several ordinances to restrict marijuana operations by banning recreational grows and new cannabis clubs, placing a year-long moratorium on medical marijuana businesses and restricting plant counts to 12 per household, regardless of how many people live in a home.
Mayor Suthers wants to completely ban home grows, taking back away the right to cultivation granted to adults by legalization. He claims voters will, too, after they learn about the illegal grows across town.
"My guess is it will be pretty close, and after maybe another six months of busts and things like that, and education about how large the problem is, I think they may well be willing to do away with local grows," Mayor Suthers claimed. "I don't see that the public is ready to totally revoke (Amendment) 64, but I think they may be ready to take another look at home grows."
Photo of Mayor John Suthers: Daily Mail / AP