Although Colorado cannabis advocates promised that the black market would take a savage beating once a taxed and regulated system was put into place to support legal marijuana, some law enforcement agencies complain that illegal cultivation sites have actually become more rampant since the state made the decision to bring down prohibition.
A recent report from Denver’s CBS4 suggests that the Marijuana Unit of the Denver Police Department has been forced to ramp up its recruitment efforts ever since the state took its first step in the realm of pot reform by legalizing medical marijuana.
The city’s team of weed killers is now working to enlist additional agents in order to keep up with the illegal cultivation sites they claim have surfaced since recreational marijuana came into the picture.
“Now is the busy season,” Denver P.D. Sergeant Aaron Rebeterano told the local CBS affiliate. “It’s kind of known as the harvest season for us. People are starting to see the plants grow over the fences and they’re getting to a large enough size that they can be seen from public view just by walking by.”
Despite the fact that the majority of Colorado voters hit the polls back in 2012 with their fists raised in the air in support of legal weed, there are apparently still plenty of residents willing to snitch on their neighbors for growing a few more plants than what is legally permitted.
Sergeant Rebeterano says his team has been busy investigating numerous reports of homes running “multiple air conditioning units,” as well as other indicators of illegal activity. Denver’s pot squad is now serving anywhere between five to nine search warrants every week simply because nosy neighbors cannot seem to mind their own business.
Still, Rebeterano wants to execute more.
“We’d like to see the reporting happen more often,” he said. “We don’t feel like we’re getting all of the complaints.”
But the majority of the illegal grow operations are not being run by the average marijuana user, Rebeterano said.
“These people are not the backyard smokers we’ve seen in the past which has never been really a big deal and has never been a huge concern to anybody in the community I don’t think,” he said.
“What we’re seeing now is more organized criminal enterprises where they will do anything to protect those grows,” said Rebeterano. “Remember there is a lot of money they invest in them and we do see an increasing number of firearms and other crimes associated with them; home invasions, burglaries, robberies, things of that nature.”
The concept of criminal syndicates operating in the shadows of Colorado’s fully legal pot market has been a hot topic of discussion this year.
Over the summer, Colorado law enforcement agencies, along with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, took down a number of large-scale marijuana trafficking operations. These illegal outfits were reportedly using the state’s legal environment to cultivate marijuana crops for distribution to areas of total prohibition.
One of the busts, conducted under the moniker “Operation Toker Poker,” was reportedly “the largest illegal marijuana trafficking ring bust in Colorado history,” according to the state’s attorney general, Cynthia Coffman. Drug agents seized 2,600 illegal cannabis plants and over 4,000 pounds of packaged marijuana by the time the mission was complete.
“The black market for marijuana has not gone away since recreational marijuana was legalized in our state, and in fact continues to flourish,” Coffman said, back in June.
There was some concern that these types of negative reports might inspire U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to make good on his threat to launch a federal crackdown. But so far, the Department of Justice has opted to maintain a safe distance.
However, Sessions recently told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he believes “federal laws clearly are in effect in all 50 states. And we will do our best to enforce the laws as we’re required to do so.”
Meanwhile, the latest Gallup poll finds 64 percent of the population now believe marijuana should be made legal nationwide.
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