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a renewed bid by Oklahoma, Nebraska and others to stamp out Colorado’s recreational cannabis sales…

Bid to take down Colorado marijuana laws revived in court

Amid uncertainty about the future of federal enforcement, a renewed bid by Oklahoma, Nebraska and others to stamp out Colorado’s recreational cannabis sales
  • Published: Jan 17, 2017, 5:42 am

By Alicia Wallace, The Cannabist Staff

Federal appeals court judges on Tuesday reviewed the reach of racketeering laws, chewed over case law and opined over olfactory issues in a case that threatens to stamp out Colorado’s recreational marijuana industry.

A three-judge panel for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver took oral arguments in a consolidated case that claims Colorado’s recreational cannabis laws fly in the face of federal controlled substances and racketeering laws.

The states of Nebraska and Oklahoma joined the dispute after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their case. The appeals also included a lawsuit from county sheriffs and another from a Pueblo horse ranch. The plaintiffs’ challenges were among several raised in and after 2014, when Colorado’s first-of-its-kind foray into regulated sales of cannabis didn’t sit well with all, especially neighboring states concerned about federally illicit substances spilling over their borders. Those complaints and the Nebraska-Oklahoma suit were eventually struck down.

On Tuesday morning, in a crowded, small, upstairs courtroom at the Byron White U.S. Courthouse in downtown Denver, attorneys and judges reviewed the reach of RICO and other federal acts and the impacts of marijuana cultivation on nearby properties.

“I went into the courtroom thinking that this was a slam dunk,” Matthew W. Buck, an attorney representing a half-dozen marijuana businesses named in the suits, said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “And I came out of it thinking that it would be more of a toss-up.”

Buck said his confidence about the outcome waned after judges appeared to align with plaintiffs’ arguments that the wafting smell of federally illegal marijuana from the Pueblo cultivation facility to neighboring properties such as the horse ranch damaged property values. The impact of the greenhouse construction on sight lines from the property also was cited.

“(If this case were remanded to district court), it would effectively open the floodgates for every single dispensary and every single cultivation facility to be sued under federal court for RICO,” Buck said.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, oft-used in the implication of crime families and fraudulent financiers, also allows for private individuals to sue “racketeers” who allegedly damaged a business or property — in this case, property values. With RICO at the heart of its complaint, the entity backing the Pueblo County horse ranch also argued that the federal prohibition of marijuana overrides state law.

“Colorado is authorizing violation of the (U.S. Controlled Substances Act) through this licensing regime,” Brian W. Barnes, an attorney for plaintiff Safe Streets Alliance, told the judges Tuesday. Safe Streets, a Washington, D.C.-based anti-drug and anti-crime organization, took up the cause of the southern Colorado horse ranchers.


Get caught up on Colorado’s pot lawsuits

In-depth analysis: Who exactly is behind the lawsuits over Colorado’s legal marijuana? Primarily out-of-state interests with deep pockets

Pot pesticides lawsuit tossed: Denver judge says consumers who sued weren’t actually harmed from smoking pot they say was treated with pesticides

Fewer targets: Federal judge removes the governor and other state and Pueblo County officials as defendants in a high-profile marijuana racketeering lawsuit based in southern Colorado

Nebraska-Oklahoma lawsuit: Previous articles about the landmark lawsuit filed by neighboring states over Colorado’s marijuana legalization

More on the RICO suits: Colorado residents suing to halt recreational marijuana sales

RICO suits: Coverage of cases trying to halt Colorado’s recreational marijuana sales by using a federal law against organized crime

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Asked by Judge Harris J. Hartz as to whether a change in enforcement policy on the federal level, perhaps from a new U.S. attorney general, would solve his concerns, Barnes said he would welcome such a change but added it would be a “bank-shot” enforcement action against a third party and would not get at the heart of the state laws that stand in opposition to federal laws.

Hartz later questioned Barnes on the need for more enforcement beyond the mechanisms already in place through federal law or actions such as the 2013 Cole Memo that set guidelines for federal prosecutors in states with legalized marijuana. State laws regulating the sale of marijuana, Hartz noted, could in effect be a means of enforcement.

“How do you decide where to draw the line of authorizing and limiting pot and encouraging it?” Hartz asked.

Matthew Grove, assistant attorney general for the state of Colorado, said his state’s regulations are not preempted by federal law.

A decision from the 10th Circuit panel could take months, case attorneys and legal experts say.

In that time, the current landscape of the U.S. marijuana industry could see a drastic shift. More states may finalize or decide to pursue legalization measures, and a new presidential administration may shake up the “hands-off” status quo in enforcement.

“When the Obama administration did not push back (on legal states), this litigation was sort of the last chance for people opposed to this,” said Sam Kamin, a professor of marijuana law and policy at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law. “Now they can move back to the policy realm and attempt to do so through federal law enforcement.”

If the appeals court judges shoot down the appeal, Kamin said he believes a push to the U.S. Supreme Court would be unlikely.

“That likely will be the end of these legal challenges for the foreseeable future,” he said.

The states’ anti-legalization effort stretches back to December 2014, nearly one year into Colorado recreational marijuana sales.

The states argued that they had to shell out more money because of a spike in marijuana arrests, vehicle impoundments, drug seizures and prisoner transfers.

“This contraband has been heavily trafficked into our state,” Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said at the time, according to a report in the Omaha World-Herald. “While Colorado reaps millions from the production and sale of pot, Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost.”

In the months that followed, Colorado’s marijuana laws were the target of several other suits, including disputes by county sheriffs, Pueblo County horse ranchers and a hotel owner in the mountain town of Frisco.

The cases involving the Pueblo horse ranchers and the county sheriffs advanced to appelate court; the suit by the hotel owner was dismissed after a settlement.

CONTINUE READING…

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Health care refugees: Medical marijuana and new hope

By Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent
Video produced by John Bonifield, CNN

Updated 12:16 PM ET, Mon November 28, 2016

Paramedics transport Abby Muszynski to the air ambulance that will fly her from Florida to Colorado.

 

This is the second part of a series on health care refugees. Read the first part here.

(CNN)Rich and Kim Muszynski know when their 5-year-old daughter, Abby, is about to have a grand mal seizure because her pupils enlarge, and she’ll seem to fixate at something in the distance that only she can see.

Then it starts. Abby’s extremities shake. She gasps for air.

By the time she turned 3, Abby had tried about eight different anti-seizure medications. None of them worked very well. Panicked to see their daughter getting worse and worse, the Muszynskis drove three hours to Orlando to see Dr. Ngoc Minh Le, a board certified pediatric neurologist and epileptologist.

Le told them that chances of another anti-seizure drug working on Abby were tiny. He recommended medical marijuana. The timing was right: Just months before, Gov. Rick Scott had legalized the use of a type of non-euphoric cannabis called Charlotte’s Web.

The formulation had been a miracle for a little girl with epilepsy named Charlotte Figi. The Muszynskis had seen her story on Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN documentary “Weed.”

Charlotte’s Web did help Abby, but not as much as it had helped Charlotte. She still was having about two grand mal seizures a week, each lasting about eight to 10 minutes.

Le explained to Kim and Rich that Charlotte’s Web has only tiny amounts of THC, one of the psychoactive ingredients in marijuana. Medical marijuana with higher levels of THC was Abby’s best hope, he told them.

But at this point, in 2015, high-THC marijuana wasn’t legal in Florida for Abby. To get it, the Muszynskis would have to move, leaving behind their friends and family, including two older children.

    Kim thought about Colorado, where Charlotte Figi lived. She’d checked with parents of disabled children there, and they told her the state had a fair and efficient Medicaid program.

    Getting to Colorado would be a challenge: Abby’s doctors said it wasn’t safe for her to fly on a commercial plane or to take a long car ride across the country.

    The Muszynskis began their final fight with Florida Medicaid — one that would leave Kim and Abby homeless for several days.

    Kim says that in mid-August, she started talking to Medicaid officials about getting an air ambulance to Colorado. On September 19, Rich drove the family car out to Colorado. They planned for Kim to attend the closing on their house in Boynton Beach on September 23 and leave on the air ambulance with Abby that afternoon.

    Kim had emailed and spoken with various Florida officials, and it seemed to her that everything was in order. “Please give a call today so we can finalize travel arrangements!” Mary Joyce, a senior registered nurse supervisor at Children’s Medical Services at the Florida Department of Health, wrote in an email to Kim on September 20.

    But then several days passed, and there was still no final approval for the transport.

    Their house sold, Kim and Abby were homeless. They moved in with Kim’s best friend and her husband. All of Abby’s equipment, like her bed with guardrails, was with Rich on their way to Colorado. Kim slept with Abby on the floor.

    Abby’s cries at night kept Kim’s friends awake. Kim wrote emails begging Florida officials for help. But for the first time, she added someone not previously included on the email: this CNN reporter.

    Three days later, she learned that the transport had been approved.

      A spokeswoman for Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration gave this statement:

      In this case relocation services are not covered by Medicaid, per federal Medicaid guidelines. However, thanks to Safety Net funds made available by Governor Scott and the Legislature, the state supported this family by covering the costs to provide relocation services via the air ambulance of the mother’s choice. Working with the family, the state arranged transport as quickly as possible,” wrote the spokeswoman, Mallory McManus.

      CONTINUE READING STORY HERE!

      Denver to become first U.S. city to legalize social marijuana use

      A man waves a Colorado flag with a marijuana leaf on it at Denver's annual 4/20 marijuana rally in front of the state capitol building in downtown Denver April 20, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

      A measure that would make Denver the first city in the United States to legalize the use of marijuana in such venues as clubs, bars and restaurants is expected to get enough votes to pass, backers and opponents of the initiative said on Tuesday.

      The announcement comes amid a string of victories for proponents of medical and recreational marijuana use, with voters in California and Massachusetts approving ballot initiatives legalizing recreational use of the drug last week.

      The Colorado measure will permit private businesses to allow marijuana use by adults in designated areas with certain exceptions. Backers of the initiative said it would make Denver the first city in the country where cannabis enthusiasts can enjoy the drug socially without fear of arrest.

      “This is a victory for cannabis consumers who, like alcohol consumers, simply want the option to enjoy cannabis in social settings,” Kayvan Khalatbari, a Denver businessman and lead proponent of the so-called I-300 measure, said in a statement on Tuesday.

      While other states have authorized similar plans, Khalatbari said Denver would be the first to actually implement them. He said businesses in the city could start opening their doors to pot users as soon as late January.

      Approval for Denver’s initiative was leading in preliminary vote totals from last week’s election. While the city’s elections agency said they would not certify results until next Tuesday, campaigns that supported and opposed the measure both agreed it had passed.

      Rachel O’Bryan, the campaign manager for the opposition group Protect Denver’s Atmosphere, said by phone there did not appear to be enough outstanding ballots for the measure to fail.

      “Back in 2012, marijuana legalization passed with a strong majority in Denver … and now about four years later, I-300 passed with a much smaller margin. We think many voters voted in favor of marijuana legalization, but didn’t want to see marijuana everywhere,” she said.

      She said the bill’s opponents are concerned about public safety as well as issues of second-hand smoke indoors. O’Bryan said she hopes the city council and possibly the state’s Attorney General will closely examine the law to see if it runs afoul of provisions in state law barring public pot use.

      Recreational marijuana was first approved in 2012 by the states of Washington and Colorado, and later by voters in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia. California, Massachusetts and Nevada all approved recreational use after voting last Tuesday.

      (Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco, editing by G Crosse)

      CONTINUE READING…

      Lawmakers want to defund the DEA’s marijuana eradication program

      Is the DEA’s marijuana eradication program worth the $14 million to fund annually? Here’s a look at some numbers

      https://i0.wp.com/www.thecannabist.co/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/p12.jpg

      Published: Oct 10, 2016, 6:33 am • Updated: about 5 hours ago Comments (1)

      By Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post

      In 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration gave $20,000 to the state of New Hampshire to eradicate marijuana plants, according to federal documents. But the Granite State’s law enforcement agencies didn’t have much luck finding any weed to pull that year – their efforts uncovered a single outdoor grow site with a grand total of 27 plants.

      Do the math, and U.S. taxpayers paid $740.74 for each pot plant uprooted in New Hampshire that year.

      That’s an expensive weeding operation, but it could be worse. Utah received $73,000 in marijuana eradication funds, according to the federal documents, obtained by journalist Drew Atkins as part of a FOIA request. But agents failed to find a single pot plant to eradicate.

      The DEA’s $14 million marijuana eradication program has been the subject of a fair amount of criticism in recent years. Twelve members of Congress have pushed to eliminate the program and use the money instead to fund domestic-violence prevention and deficit-reduction programs.

      Its purpose is to “halt the spread of cannabis cultivation in the United States,” a mission that has become complicated as more states have legalized medical or recreational marijuana programs. Several more states have similar measures on the ballot this year.

      DEA records show the program has been effective in some states, most notably California. Agents pulled 2.6 million marijuana plants in 2015, seizing more than 1,600 weapons in the process. Nearly $5.4 million was funneled into that state’s program.

      Kentucky’s $1.9-million program had the next largest number of eradicated plants, more than 570,000.

      Nationwide, the DEA documents show that spending on the program has shrunk from about $18 million in 2014 to $14 million in the current fiscal year. Some states – including Alaska, Colorado and Vermont – stopped receiving eradication funds completely.

      California, where medical marijuana is legal, receives the lion’s share of marijuana eradication funds, in part because the “Emerald Triangle” region of Northern California. The area has long been home to many of the state’s legal and quasi-legal marijuana production operations, but law enforcement authorities have maintained that it also has been a haven for the grow operations of Mexican drug cartels.

      Kentucky also receives a large amount of money to eradicate marijuana. The state has a surprisingly rich culture of marijuana cultivation.

      Related: Meet Patrick Moen, the first-ever DEA official to defect to the marijuana industry

      Rounding out the top 5 marijuana eradication states are Tennessee, Georgia and, perhaps unexpectedly, Washington. The aptly nicknamed Evergreen State legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012, and pot shops opened for business in 2014. So it may seem odd that the DEA is spending $760,000 this year to eradicate pot plants in the state.

      But Washington is the only recreational marijuana state that doesn’t allow people to grow their own plants for recreational use. (In District of Columbia, incidentally, the situation is reversed: Homegrows are okay, but you can’t buy weed at the store.)

      Washington also receives more marijuana eradication money than any other state with a recreational pot regime in place. Oregon received $200,000 this year, while Colorado and Alaska didn’t take any federal money for marijuana eradication.

      New Hampshire, Louisiana, Delaware, Utah and New Jersey all spent well over $100 for every marijuana plant eradicated. Eleven states spent at least $50 per plant, while nearly half of the states – 23 of them – spent at least $25 in federal money for each marijuana plant they eliminated.

      At the other end of the spectrum, states with big investments in marijuana eradication – like California and Kentucky – also had the most successful efforts to pull up large numbers of pot plants. So their per-plant costs are much lower.

      To be perfectly clear, even in a fully legal, highly regulated market like Colorado’s there will be a need to enforce prohibitions on large-scale, unlicensed marijuana grows – similar to the way the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms busts illegal home alcohol distilleries. Beyond that, authorities often make a number of arrests at cultivation sites, or seize weapons and other property from people suspected of involvement with marijuana grow operations.

      Still, some lawmakers are starting to question the need dedicated this level or resources to eliminating pot plants when so many states are relaxing their own restrictions.

      “It makes zero sense for the federal government to continue to spend taxpayer dollars on cannabis eradication at a time when states across the country are looking to legalize marijuana,” Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., told me earlier this year. “I will continue to fight against DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program in Congress and work to redirect these funds to worthwhile programs.”

      CONTINUE READING…

      ADVOCACY ALERT! (Colorado) WE’RE CHANGING THE CHILD WELFARE CODE!

      Teri Robnett

      21 hrs ·

      ADVOCACY ALERT! WE’RE CHANGING THE CHILD WELFARE CODE!

      I’m excited to announce the introduction of HB16-1385. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Singer and Sen. Linda Newell, updates and modernizes the language of the definition of “abuse” or “child abuse or neglect” in the “Colorado Children’s Code” to reflect the ways a child’s welfare can be threatened or harmed by adults through the use of or exposure to substances. It allows for prescription or recommendation of substances for medical purposes during pregnancy under the care and monitoring of a healthcare provider who is aware of the pregnancy. It is meant to give clear guidance as to appropriate child welfare intervention in families when substance use, possession, cultivation, manufacturing, or distribution is a factor. This does not change the criminal code.

      This is the most important and challenging piece of legislation I’ve worked on. In 2013 and 2014, we fought legislation that would have changed the Children’s Code, but in a way we were concerned could be poorly interpreted and put cannabis-consuming parents in further jeopardy. Many might remember the dramatic rally and hearing on April 9, 2014, when we defeated that bill.

      After 2 years of working together, starting with an educational campaign on keeping kids safe from substances called Smart Choices Safe Kids, we’ve finally managed to come to a place that both sides can support. http://smartchoicessafekids.org/

      We won’t be without opposition, however, so it’s important that we come ready with facts and show strong support.

      This bill will have its first hearing by the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee on Tuesday, April 5, at 1:30pm in House Committee Room 0107. Mark your calendar and plan to be there to show your support!

      http://www.leg.state.co.us/…/8CBD4ED6CD3F82C587257F2400659B…

      http://statebillinfo.com/bills/bills/16/1385_01.pdf

      Editorial; Marijuana nullification?

      March 22, 2016

       

      The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up a challenge to Colorado’s voter-approved law legalizing recreational marijuana, but the legal question the case raises can’t be ignored indefinitely. The question is as old as the republic: How far can states go in substituting their own laws for those of the federal government? The issue of marijuana raises that question now. In the past it has been raised by the issues of tariffs, slavery and desegregation, and in the future it could come up in relation to anything from abortion to immigration.

      The states of Nebraska and Oklahoma asked the court to overturn Colorado’s four-year-old law, claiming that it imposed costs on their law-enforcement systems. The lawsuit described the emergence of a $100 million marijuana industry in a neighboring state, and argued that “If this entity were based south of our border, the federal government would prosecute it as a drug cartel.”

      Instead, the federal government has turned a nearsighted, if not quite blind, eye toward Colorado’s law, along with similar laws in Oregon, Alaska, Washington state and the District of Columbia. The federal government also has largely looked away from the more narrow laws in 22 states legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is categorized as a drug whose possession and use is prohibited under all circumstances.

      The federal classification of marijuana is foolish, destructive and should be changed — but it’s still the law, and like other laws, foolish or wise, it is meant to be obeyed. Yet the U.S. Justice Department has told prosecutors to ignore state legalization laws, as long as marijuana possession, use and sale remain within a set of guidelines. Federal authorities will step in, for instance, to prevent interstate commerce in marijuana, or to keep the drug out of the hands of children. Within those guidelines, just about anything goes, as Oregonians can see from the proliferation of pot products and retailers.

      The Justice Department’s permissive approach avoids a confrontation over the limits of state and federal authority. Such confrontations have occurred in the past. The friction goes back to the nation’s founding, when it was the states, not a federal government, that dissolved the colonies’ ties to the British crown and ratified the U.S. Constitution. In the early 19th century, advocates of state supremacy argued that states have the right to secede in response to what they perceived as federal overreach — a position that led to the Civil War. Figures ranging from John Calhoun to George Wallace have advanced variants of that idea, claiming that states have the power to nullify federal laws with which they disagree.

      Advocates of marijuana legalization have not argued for nullification. So far the Justice Department, and now the Supreme Court, have sidestepped the question of whether nullification has occurred. But marijuana legalization laws such as Oregon’s can’t be squared with the federal Controlled Substances Act, and as a practical matter, the state laws have been allowed to prevail. Someone, somewhere, is bound to point to this as establishing a precedent for states’ right to set aside other federal laws.

      If Oregon can legalize marijuana in defiance of federal law, why can’t other states make their own rules regarding health care, the environment or civil rights? It’s regrettable that the Supreme Court decided against hearing a case that raised such questions, because they are inherent in any state law legalizing marijuana — and, perhaps soon, in other state laws that openly conflict with federal law.

      CONTINUE READING…

      Per my friend and sister Larisa in our cannabis struggle on the passing of Ken Gorman July 12, 1946 – February 17, 2007.

       

      9 years ago today, my mentor and one of the boldest and most courageous people I know, was assassinated in his home.

      Yes, assassinated. Someone walked in his home and shot him in the chest, leaving his weed and money behind.

      His murder is still virtually unsolved with police stating that the primary suspect is in jail on other charges.

      Even more tragic is that today, most people do not know who he is, which is literally the godfather of the cannabis movement in Colorado.

      He made the noise and gathered the attention to the cause that would first collect enough signatures to get Amendment 20 on the ballot through his 420 Rally,

      which served as the foundation for the Denver 420 Rally today. Up until 2 years ago, I had been volunteering for the 420 Rally since 2002, my last year of

      volunteering culminating with his daughter and I, along with other people he had mentored through the years, spreading his ashes around a tree by the stage.

      He lives on in our passion for ensuring that liberty and reason lead the way in not only drug policy, but in all areas of our lives.

      Please take a moment of silence tonight for Ken and his legacy.

      AMEN AND AMEN Larisa. THERE SHOULD BE A STATUE OF HIM IN DENVER CIVIC PARK!

      Ken Gorman – Wikipedia

       

      (Photo 1994 Denver Civic Center Park)

       

       

      CONTINUE READING…

      6 Stories That Prove You Can Still Be Arrested For Growing Marijuana In Colorado

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      By TNM News on October 9, 2015 Latest Headlines, Legal, News Feed

      Although it may be “Legal” in some way, some operations for making your own marijuana are being targeted by both the Federal and State governments. Much like the law that you cannot make and distribute your own alcohol without the proper licensing and adhering to certain guidelines, the Marijuana industry follows suit.

      Fox31 Denver Reports:

      DENVER — 20,000 marijuana plants, 700 pounds of dried weed and more than 30 guns, all found right out in the open.

      “You see a group of people who are actually actively engaged, farming the marijuana. So that means there are tents, cookhouses. There are irrigation systems in place. There’s a lot of pesticides,” said United States Attorney for the District of Colorado John Walsh.

      The busts started Aug. 19 and spanned the state of Colorado as listed below. Six of them took place through Thursday.

      Pike National Forest, Aug. 19 in the Green Mountain Area in Jefferson County. Investigation is ongoing.

      Law Enforcement Officers from the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado National Guard Joint Counter Drug Task Force joined together to complete an eradication of an illegal marijuana grow site in the Pike National Forest. The eradication team collected more than 3,900 plants and over 3,000 pounds of irrigation pipe, pesticides, flammable liquids, camping gear and trash.

      Routt National Forest, Aug. 28, Buffalo Pass Area in Routt County, two arrested.

      Law Enforcement Officers from the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Routt County Sheriff’s Office joined together to eradicate an illegal marijuana grow site located in the Buffalo Pass area, northeast of Steamboat Springs. The eradication team collected approximately 1,000 plants and removed camping gear from the site. Further, a handgun was found. Additional site clean-up of trash and other items will be ongoing by the U.S. Forest Service. Two Mexican Nationals in the country illegally were arrested.

      Private Land, Sept. 1, Cotopaxi and Westcliffe in Freemont and Custer County. 20 people arrested.

      A DEA-led task force executed eight search warrants in Cotopaxi and Westcliffe as part of a major drug trafficking organization investigation. Agents and officers found well over 1,000 marijuana plants, 50 pounds of dried marijuana, 28 firearms, and $25,000 in cash. The investigation and seizures resulted ultimately in the arrest of 20 individuals, many from Cuba, acting in an organized manner according to investigators. Those arrested were growing the marijuana in Cotopaxi and Westcliffe, and then either driving or using UPS to get it to Florida.

      San Isabel National Forest, Sept. 7, Cordova Pass Area northwest of Trinidad in Huerfano County, two arrested.

      Hunters discovered an illegal marijuana grow site located in the Cordova Pass area approximately 40 miles northwest of Trinidad. The eradication team collected more than 11,700 plants as well as irrigation pipe, pesticides, flammable liquids, camping gear and trash. The U.S. Forest Service and Huerfano County Sheriff’s Office are working together to identify the individuals. The cultivation site spread across 10 acres with some of the growing areas above 10,000 feet in elevation. The overall grow area included a kitchen structure, three sleeping areas and a rifle. Two men were arrested at one of the campsites within the cultivation area.

      Bureau of Land Management land, Sept. 15, along the Dolores River corridor between Gateway and Naturita in Montrose County, four arrested.

      BLM Rangers discovered more than 1,200 fully mature marijuana plants, many exceeding six feet tall, along with 211 kilograms of dried marijuana and a rifle. Because of the size of the operation, officers spent two-and-a-half days eradicating and removing the plants. The rangers arrested four Mexican nationals who were on-scene and believed to be working the grow site.

      Bureau of Land Management land, September 30, also along the Dolores River corridor between Gateway and Naturita in Montrose County, six arrested.

      Law enforcement officers identified a marijuana grow site, also along the Dolores River. Evidence of at least 1,000 marijuana plants appeared recently harvested with approximately 69.6 kilograms of processed marijuana still on site. The rangers arrested one Honduran and five Mexican nationals at or near the site.

      “We think this is being grown in Colorado to be shipped all around the United States to states where it’s not legal,” said Walsh.

      Some grows discovered by hikers and hunters, others uncovered by law enforcement. Walsh calls operations like these a multifaceted problem.

      “A major concern is this marijuana is worth a lot of money and there may be violence in connection with protecting it. It’s causing Colorado to be a source state for marijuana for other states that don`t want our marijuana. Its creating environmental damage in our mountains. Its creating safety problems in our mountains,” Walsh said.

      32 people are now in custody in connection with these illegal operations

      Some face up to life in prison.

      Walsh has one message for anyone who thinks because weed is now legal in the state, they can just come in and grow it.

      “You are not going to stay long in Colorado because you are going to be in a Federal prison somewhere,” he said.

      CONTINUE READING…

      A first for the marijuana industry: A product liability lawsuit

      David Kelly

      For years, Brandan Flores has treated his chronic back pain with marijuana, a remedy he champions as a natural alternative to traditional medication.

      But recently he heard rumblings that his drug of choice might be less wholesome than he had imagined.

      "There was talk about Eagle 20," he said, "and it concerned me right away."

      Eagle 20 is a fungicide used to kill mites, mildew and assorted pests that flock to plants like hops and grapes. It also contains a chemical called myclobutanil, which produces hydrogen cyanide gas when burned.

      Stunned that he might be inhaling toxic fumes, Flores and fellow medicinal pot user Brandie Larrabee, a brain tumor patient, sued the grower this week, filing the first product liability lawsuit against the marijuana industry.

      "I want these companies to take a step back and look at what they are putting into their products," said Flores, 24, who sued in Denver District Court. "These warehouses are getting big and really sloppy. They are adding chemicals to make things more efficient and more potent. But there are so many chemicals now that you might as well get prescription medication."

      The target of the suit, LivWell Inc., owns nine pot shops in Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana use last year. LivWell operates one of the largest grow houses in the world.

      Company lawyer Dean Heizer did not respond to a request for comment. Earlier, he told the Associated Press that LivWell had stopped using Eagle 20 and that no consumer illnesses had been linked to marijuana pesticides.

      In April, Colorado quarantined 60,000 pot plants from LivWell to check for Eagle 20 residue. The hold was lifted when only low levels of the chemical were found.

      Afterward, LivWell owner John Lord released a statement saying laboratory tests of his plants "showed that our products are safe — as we always maintained."

      Neither Flores nor Larrabee contends that the marijuana has harmed them. But they say they would have never inhaled it if they knew it could release what the lawsuit calls "poisonous hydrogen cyanide."

      Their attorney, Steven Woodrow, said the growers "either knew or acted in disregard of the facts" when they sprayed the plants with Eagle 20.

      "The state of Colorado has a list of approved pesticides for marijuana," he said. "This is not one of them."

      Woodrow said this is the first lawsuit to challenge the marijuana industry’s grow methods. He is seeking class-action status for the suit and expects more plaintiffs to join in.

      "Unless the industry cleans itself up, we can expect more lawsuits like this in the future," he said.

      The action comes as the marijuana business rapidly expands across Colorado, often outpacing laws trying to regulate it. New products, new ways to get high and new strains of weed come onto the market every day.

      Woodrow compared the explosion of the pot economy here to the tech startups in Silicon Valley.

      "We have a burgeoning industry that is growing on a scale never attempted before," he said. "They are growing hundreds of thousands of plants indoors under lights, and now they are seeing spidery mites, fungus and other plant diseases they fear will wipe out millions of dollars of profit."

      But rather than scale back, he said, companies resort to chemicals like Eagle 20 to save their crops.

      "It is allowed on vegetation that is not inhaled, but it has been banned for use on plants like tobacco," Woodrow said.

      The lack of any federal guidelines for growing pot underscores the continuing conundrum of an industry still considered illegal by the U.S. government.

      "The problem is getting a robust regulatory system in place so that consumers have reliable government standards they can count on," said Alison Malsbury, a Seattle attorney with the Canna Law Group, which specializes in marijuana law. "The main message here is that marijuana companies can’t rely on meeting the bare minimum standards for product safety. If a consumer gets sick, they have a product liability case on their hands."

      Last week, Denver health officials quarantined more plants to check for traces of unauthorized pesticides.

      Flores says it all comes down to trust. He became an activist for legalized marijuana shortly after a severe car accident left him with recurring lower back pain. He found marijuana eased that pain in an organic way without lining the pockets of big drug companies.

      But after the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, he said, the pot business is starting to resemble the rest of corporate America.

      "They are only interested in pumping out large quantities of the product and not in taking time to nurture it," he said. "If they are willing to compromise your health to make a profit, then I say we hit them where it hurts, in the pocketbook."

      Kelly is a special correspondent.

      http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-marijuana-lawsuit-20151008-story.html