DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado’s attorney general, the Denver Police Department and the DEA teamed up for a major drug bust that involves thousands of pounds of marijuana grown in Colorado to be sold out of state.
A total of 43 people have been arrested while the search continues for 19 more. All are suspects in the multi-state scheme.
“Opeation Toker Poker” is the largest such bust in the state. Some of the suspects were classmates in high school and regularly played poker together.
Investigators say the suspects are exploiting Colorado’s pot laws to make a profit in other states.
Many of the suspects came from out of state and moved their operations to Colorado, posing as marijuana caregivers and creating fake businesses to launder the money, averaging $200,000 per month.
The alleged dealers were operating illegal grow operations out of their homes. People in the neighborhood may have been exposed to dangerous or hazardous materials.
One of the 33 homes identified in the sting along the Front Range had a grow operation inside and is located next door to a school.
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“It’s the damage that’s caused to the homes, it’s the mold and pesticides that aren’t regulated. If you go to the regulated legal grow, they take steps to mitigate those things… an illegal grow does not,” said Denver Police Department Deputy Chief David Quinones.
Some suspects found investors, some of them high-profile in the community who were led to believe they were supporting a legal grow operation.
In total, 2,600 plants were seized along with 4,000 pounds of marijuana.
“When you think the Denver Police Department and the DEA are going after users, I can tell you, after 30 years of doing this, we don’t care about marijuana users, we never have and we never will,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent In Charge David A Schiller. “We care about those coming into our state, taking advantage of the laws.”
The scope of the bust was massive and took more than a year of investigation and involved many states. Authorities have been monitoring the suspects since March 2016.