“Thousands of Pounds” Were Seized in Colorado’s Black Market Bust

Just days after Colorado’s House passed a bill targeting the state’s black market, the DEA and Colorado authorities raided over 20 illicit facilities used to grow and export illegal marijuana.

This bust resulted from months-long investigation and not related to the recent bill, but Colorado’s recent plea to wipe out the state’s black market is off to a successful start. All told, the raids on residential grow houses and warehouses resulted in “thousands of illegal pot plants seized,” according to a grand jury indictment acquired by 9News.

The indictment shows a sophisticated operation which grew cannabis throughout Colorado that was then exported to multiple states including Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri. All told, the indictment names 16 individuals with charges ranging from violations of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act to conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

The affidavit claims that two of the group’s leaders, Michael Stonehouse and Rudy Saenz, seemed “to have state approved marijuana licensing and knew to legally be in the marijuana business. Yet since 2014, they operated illegally, not reporting or paying marijuana-specific taxes.”

While unclear, that statement could mean that Stonehouse and Saenz own a licensed marijuana cultivation facility — but were using that OPC (grow) license to send product out the back-door. If they were also operating a legal cannabis business, not reporting their taxes likely sowed their seeds of demise.

Licensed or not, exporting the cannabis is nonetheless a serious crime, and one that 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler told a group of reporters is, “an eye-opener to the State of Colorado about what the true state of our situation is involving drug cultivation and distribution in the State of Colorado.”

Since going fully legal in 2014, Colorado has made a clear, concerted, effort to eliminate this  major thorn in legalization’s side.

Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett.

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