Though Colorado is currently ruling it when it comes to legal weed, federal narcotics agents were surely happy to discover that the illegal pot growing business is still a-booming near the Rockies.
More than 20,000 cannabis plants were seized and 32 people arrested by a combo of federal and local authorities over the last two months in a series of six raids. Most of this booty was discovered on federal land in highly sophisticated set-ups, according to U.S. Attorney John Walsh who recently spoke to the The Associated Press.
Walsh also put a xenophobic twist on the raids, placing the blame for these illegal operations squarely on Colorado outsiders including foreign drug traffickers. “We’ve seen people come into Colorado and just set up large marijuana cultivations, perhaps with the feeling that, because there’s a lot of marijuana activity in Colorado, they wouldn’t be noticed,” Walsh told the AP.
Reports stated that some of those arrested in the raids were from Cuba and Mexico, and the marijuana seized was intended for transport to other states such as Florida, either by car or the US Postal Service.
Though illegal weed operations are nothing new to Colorado, Walsh said that not only was this series of raids unprecedented in state history, but also represented local cannabis growers upping their game. He said that the federal government is currently charging more people with federal cannabis-related crimes than ever before in his experience.
“This is really a wave,” Walsh said. “In these six cases, people were making no effort to comply with the regulatory system. This is good-old, traditional marijuana growing, the illegal way.”
The largest of the finds was made in early September in the San Isabel National Forest, near Trinidad in Huerfano County. There authorities discovered over 11,700 cannabis plants and a sophisticated set-up taking up ten acres and including irrigation pipes, pesticides, sleeping quarters, kitchen structures and a rifle. Two men were arrested as a result.
Six more were arrested (five Mexican nationals and a Honduran) and another 1,000 plants seized after another operation was discovered near the Dolores River corridor in Montrose County. 20 more were arrested and another 1,000 plants taken, along with$25,000 cash and 28 firearms on private property in Cotopaxi and Westcliffe in southern Colorado.