Friday, January 29, 2016

Marijuana Cultivation

– an article from Jefferson County’s “Behind Badge” newsletter

In August, a large marijuana cultivation site was identified in the Pike National Forest. Officials from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office partnered with the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Homeland Security Investigations and the Colorado National Guard Joint Counter Drug Task Force to eradicate the illegal marijuana grow site.
The eradication team collected more than 3,900 plants and approximately 3,000 pounds of irrigation pipe, pesticides, flammable liquids, camping gear and trash. While the investigation continues, this eradication represents an important step in gaining control over the illegal production and sales of marijuana on public lands and federal property. Marijuana cultivation on public land wreaks havoc on the natural resources our outdoor enthusiasts and residents enjoy. But even more alarming is the criminal element and inherent public safety risks these criminal enterprises bring.

In adherence with the Sheriff's Office's mission (Protect ~ Serve ~ Enforce) we will continue to investigate, and hold accountable those attempting to take advantage of the marijuana laws in Colorado. 

With the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, it's no surprise that law enforcement has been presented with a multi-faceted problem. Locating and eliminating illegal marijuana grows not only requires strong partnerships, but a complex understanding of the laws and enforcement responsibilities. Before we present the Sheriff's Office's goals and approach, let's revisit both state and federal laws, and county ordinances:

Federal Law: Marijuana cultivation continues to be illegal under federal law.

State Law: In November of 2012, Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, which permits adults 21 and older to possess one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants for personal use.

County Ordinances: Jefferson County ordinance states that no more than six plants may be grown in each residential property for each adult age 21 or older, and in no case may more than 12 plants be grown on any single residential property. The ordinance does not allow for commercial grows in unincorporated Jefferson County. Cultivation and consumption is meant for private, personal use, so it is not allowed on any Jefferson County Open Space lands or any other public place.

In the last several months, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office investigated 16 suspected illegal marijuana grow operations in unincorporated Jefferson County. Nine of the grows were in residences; four of the grows were in compliance with both state law and county ordinances. The remaining five grows were cited by Jefferson County Planning and Zoning for violating county ordinances. The other seven grows, located in commercially-zoned properties, were also referred to planning and zoning as they were in violation of county ordinances.
The goal of the Sheriff's Office is to continue to work with local, state and federal partners in investigating public safety concerns and hold accountable those who participate in illegal marijuana activity. First and foremost is the need to collaborate with each other to share resources and data. In July, a coalition of various Jefferson County entities (sheriff's office, planning and zoning, health department, school district, and county attorney, and members of the public) reviewed Amendment 64 enforcement considerations and designed a three-pronged approach to address priorities:

* Address prevention, treatment, and educational needs with marijuana usage,
* Identify appropriate enforcement with varied laws and,
* Address the need to share information via a unified database. 
If you suspect that an illegal marijuana grow operation is occurring please contact the
Jefferson County Sheriff's Office at 303-277-0211.

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