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Other States Legalizing Recreational Pot Could Benefit Colorado

By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) - Only four states have legalized recreational marijuana, but that could change after this election and it might benefit Colorado.

California is the largest to vote on the issue. Many law enforcement authorities are hoping if those measures pass illegal growers will want to move out of Colorado to find more favorable conditions.

Marijuana Raids
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The raids on illegal grows have become common in Colorado, often involving operations run by various ethnic groups.

RELATED: Illegal Marijuana Grow Operations Busted In Colorado, More Than 40 Arrested

In September 14 Chinese people were arrested in Garfield County at a grow operation. They are now to be tried in federal court. Soon afterwards a Laotian-run operation was busted and marijuana was hauled away in southeastern Colorado.

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Drug agents are busy.

"Legalization in Colorado has provided a wonderful opportunity for people to engage in organized crime around marijuana," Jim Gerhardt of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association said.

A Drug Enforcement Administration intelligence brief and other sources have indicated the following ethnically-based groups involved in illegal growing and domestic shipping operations:


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"About 18 months ago we started seeing more and more organized crime coming into Colorado and taking advantage of the fact that we have legalized recreational marijuana," Tom Gorman of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area said.

RELATED STORIES: Marijuana Legalization Story Archive

The marijuana is being shipped out of state. Grown illegally in Colorado, it will fetch two to three times more elsewhere.

"They're either using the loopholes that exist in our law or they're assuming that law enforcement isn't going to be taking any action, and they're hiding within the legality of marijuana," Gorman said.

Many people in Colorado are finding the illegal grow operations are happening right next door.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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