Walsh: Organized Crime Operating Under Cover of State’s Legal Pot Laws

An increasing number of illegal marijuana traffickers are moving into Colorado to set up grow operations in private residences, then shipping that marijuana to states where it isn’t legal, Colorado U.S. District Attorney John Walsh said Wednesday.

“We’re concerned first and foremost because this is organized crime, and there are hundreds of these houses, perhaps thousands,” Walsh said in a taping for Colorado State of Mind on Rocky Mountain PBS. “Often we find firearms involved with these grows.”

A man was shot and killed near Walsenburg on March 14, he said, when one group of traffickers tried to enter another group’s grow house. Walsh said that many of the traffickers who’ve been busted in raids by federal, state and local authorities so far have had roots in Florida.

They come to Colorado to be shielded by the state’s legal marijuana laws, pack hundreds of plants into houses, and produce huge quantities of marijuana. “Some of these plants are more or less like Christmas trees,” he said.

“There’s a strong odor associated with these houses. They produce huge mold problems. There’s so much moisture that we’ve seen exterior paneling buckling off the sides of  houses. They have large sets of grow lights that burn night and day. If you have one on your street, you’ll figure it out pretty quickly.”

Some 40 people were arrested in raids by law enforcement in the Denver area in recent days, and will face charges including racketeering, money laundering and tax evasion as well as illegal drug charges.

The black market distribution of pot outside Colorado has been the subject of a yearlong, multi-state investigation, Walsh said. The interview will be shown on Colorado State of Mind on Rocky Mountain PBS Friday night at 7:30.

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