Year in review: More than 7,500 illegal marijuana plants seized in El Paso Co.

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - The City of Colorado Springs released a year-end report saying, "The legalization of marijuana was anticipated to reduce black market activity in Colorado, but according to local law enforcement statistics, that hasn't been the case."

Though recreational marijuana is legal in the state of Colorado it's not legal to sell it recreationally in Colorado Springs. In the Colorado Springs city limits, only medical marijuana can be sold.  

It is legal to sell in the rest of El Paso County and Pueblo County. According to state law, each person is only allowed to have six plants meaning massive grows are still against the law.  

According to metro vice and narcotics investigations, in 2018 more than 7500 illegal Marijuana plants and long with 175 weapons and 1,862 pounds of refined marijuana was seized. 

They did this by executing 105 search warrants and made 43 arrests.

This year illegal grows even causing deaths after one man this summer was shot and killed after people tried to rob him, then police shooting that suspect. 

In that same incident an El Paso County Sheriff's Deputy, Jeremy Juhl, was shot and injured; after that the Sheriff vowed to crack down on illegal grows. 

"It's part of continuing episode of illegal black market marijuana that we are attacking in the county. I expect that this is the tip of the iceberg," said El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder this summer. 

Legal dispensaries said illegal grows give the industry as a whole a black eye.  

"There can be bad players in the game, trying to show leaders of how it should be done and exceed the expectations given to us," said Jessica Pichardo a Store Manager at Native Roots in July.  

“We owe a debt of gratitude to CSPD and EPSO for their collaboration with Metro VNI, which continues to fight hard against black market marijuana operations that negatively impact neighborhoods throughout the City and County,” said Mayor John Suthers. “We know that legalization of marijuana has made their work more challenging, but be assured that CSPD, Metro VNI and EPSO are dedicated to full enforcement of our laws and to eliminating black market operations county-wide.”

Statement from Michael Elliott, Of Counsel Attorney with McAllister Garfield, P.C.:

“By banning licensed retail marijuana establishments, the City of Colorado Springs is funneling tens of millions of dollars a year to the illicit market. The people of Colorado Springs need a legal way to purchase cannabis. Allowing licensed retail marijuana businesses would help dry up the illicit market, create thousands of jobs and tens of millions in new tax revenue, and enhance our freedom. The Mayor is fighting a losing battle. If the City continues to ban licensed marijuana businesses, anticipate that a similar report showcasing a similar lack of progress with the illicit market will be released this time next year.”

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