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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.

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Old mining town turns to marijuana after prison, factory close

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WALSENBURG, Colo. – A developer’s plan to build hundreds of cannabis greenhouses could make this tiny southern Colorado town one of the nation’s largest producers of legal marijuana.

The town sold 330 acres of municipal land for more than $1 million to create a campus for growing, processing and distribution, with the marijuana to be trucked 160 miles north to consumers in metro Denver. Walsenburg is a former coal mining town that never recovered when the mines closed by the 1960s, and its population has dropped to fewer than 3,000 residents. In Huerfano County, which is home to Walsenburg, 20% of the population lives below poverty level.

Today, the town’s main street is filled with vacant buildings offered at cheap rent. Most people drive through the historic downtown without stopping, often headed west to Great Sand Dunes National Park or Wolf Creek Ski Area. The marijuana project envisions pumping $1 million monthly into the local economy, giving town officials funds for road and infrastructure repairs, and also offering as many as a 1,000 direct and related jobs.

"The only export we really had was smart kids. Now hopefully this will be able to retain those kids in this community," said Walsenburg Mayor James Eccher.

The Martra Development project proposes having about 500 people working on the site, with each greenhouse rented out separately. That will allow smaller growers to get started while giving them room to expand. Martra officials visited 17 counties in Colorado searching for the right combination of land, water and a business-friendly climate.

"There’s people who are saying, ‘hey, embrace this. And then there are CAVE people – citizens against virtually everything. You’re not going to satisfy everybody. What you have to do is try to do is at least not anger the majority," said county administrator John Galusha.

Today, most marijuana grown in Colorado is grown indoors in warehouses stuffed with high-powered lights to mimic the sun. Industry experts say warehouses in urban areas were simply the easiest place for growers to set up shop, especially for those accustomed to hiding their work.

Indoor marijuana cultivation uses so much energy that Boulder County, Colo., enacted a special fee to offset the power demands by growers running lights for 12 hours a day. With marijuana legal in Colorado, a growing number of developers are erecting special-purpose cannabis greenhouses in traditionally agricultural areas to take advantage of abundant natural sunlight and a long growing season.

USA TODAY

Power to the pot: Marijuana growers face electric fee

"A cannabis operator, who’s been operating up there (in Denver) with the boot on his neck, just choking to death on his overhead, looks at this model and says ‘when can I have it?" said Brian Trani, Martra’s CEO.

The answer, Trani says, is as soon as October. County officials say the project has been met with some skepticism by locals who say Walsenburg has had its hoped dashed before, including when a nearby privately-run prison and a manufactured-home factory closed.

Count Maria Cocchiarelli-Berger among the skeptics. The curator of the town’s contemporary art museum, she worries Walsenburg is pinning too many hopes on a single project. Still, she admits, the town needs to do something.

"I like to be optimistic, but having lived here for 10 years now, I’ve seen a number of ideas come through that were going to save us. We’ve pinned our hopes on these things … but lots of people just last six months or a year. I do hope it works, but until I see it working, I really am not sure that that’s going to be the key out of the mess we’re in."

A marijuana-growing supply store opened in downtown Walsenburg a few months ago, and co-founder Luara Tank says she’s struggling to keep lights, potting soil and other equipment in stock. On the store counter sits a dish of replacement springs for marijuana-trimming shears, and while the store has been welcomed, some customers still park around back or up the street, she said. Tank moved to Walsenburg to grow, and got tired of making the two-hour round-trip drive to buy supplies.

USA TODAY

Patchwork of pot rules hampers marijuana business expansion

"People were guerrilla-growing anyway," Tank said. "It’s pretty perfect here for growing. There’s no jobs here, so you have to make your own job."

Four states have legalized recreational marijuana, along with the District of Columbia, and 23 states and the District have legalized some form of medical marijuana. In many cases, officials levy taxes on the marijuana products to help move the marketplace from the black market to a legitimate business. Colorado reported collecting $10.6 million in legal marijuana taxes and fees in May, twice the amount it collected a year ago, with $91 million collected in the nearly-finished fiscal year.

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NJWeedman found not guilty in pot distribution case

 

MOUNT HOLLY — A jury found Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion not guilty Thursday in the Rastafarian activist’s marijuana distribution case.

The decision came after Forchion was nearly held in contempt of court in the morning as he delivered his closing argument.

 

Stay tuned for details of Thursday afternoon’s verdict.

Forchion, formerly of Pemberton Township, tried to introduce his jury nullification argument into the closing, but was quickly stopped by Superior Court Judge Charles Delehey, who had barred any discussion of it.

Forchion began verbally sparring with Delehey, who then ordered the jury out of the room and told the defendant he would be held in contempt if he continued to ignore the court’s orders.

“If you want to make a martyr of yourself, the court will deal with you,” the judge said. “You’ve done everything you can to disrupt this trial.”

Jury nullification would allow the jurors to disregard the law they were ordered to follow in considering the case and acquit a defendant, no matter what the evidence, in effect nullifying or invalidating the law.

Forchion, wearing a “Marijuana … It’s OK. It’s Just Illegal” T-shirt, refused to talk to his court-appointed attorney during the brief recess, but when Delehey and the jury returned, he toed the line and abandoned his blatant jury nullification pitch.

Instead, the legalization activist focused the jury on his plight as a licensed medical marijuana patient in California who brought a pound of pot to New Jersey in April 2010 for his own use.

“I don’t use it the way the state says. To me, it’s medicine, it’s food,” Forchion said, noting for the jury that he had been eating pot-laced cookies throughout the trial. “I feel I’m the victim of a flawed law.”

The state alleged that because of the sheer volume of the marijuana, his intent was to distribute it. Burlington County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Luciano told the jury that the case was not “a political referendum” on medical marijuana or legalization.

“It is not a litmus test on the war on drugs,” he said.

Luciano also said the numbers and common sense should lead to a guilty verdict, noting that Forchion had enough pot on him when he was stopped by police in Mount Holly on April 1, 2010, to smoke for months.

By Luciano’s calculations, Forchion would have to smoke two to three joints an hour nonstop for 24 hours to get through the pound of marijuana in about six months. NJWeedman disputed the prosecutor’s math and said it doesn’t fairly portray how he uses the drug.

“He had more than any person could smoke on their own,” Luciano said, reminding the jurors that they didn’t have to find he was selling it to convict him and that sharing also constitutes distribution. “He was going to distribute this for profit. He was going to distribute it because that’s what he believes, that’s his drug, that’s his food and that’s his plant.”

At a trial earlier this year, Forchion was convicted of possession, but the jury deadlocked on the more serious distribution charge, leading to this week’s retrial.

 

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