A law change effective in January that limits residential marijuana grows to 12 plants per home has allowed El Paso and Teller county law enforcement to go after illegal grows with fervor.
In the first five months of 2018, agencies across the two counties reported investigating 113 suspected grows, 69 of which they determined to be illegal (There may be additional locations that law enforcement withheld citing a pending investigation). From those homes, law enforcement seized 6,013 marijuana plants, 1,144 pounds of processed marijuana and 27 guns, among other things.
New addresses and seizure data is being added each month. The Gazette is mapping only those locations where illegal grows were confirmed.
Most of the busts take place in El Paso County, where Sheriff Bill Elder has praised the “incredible tempo” of eradication and predicted marijuana warrants would outnumber all other warrants by 2-to-1 by the end of the year.
“I don’t know the numbers for sure, but I would venture a guess (that) we lead the state today in illegal black market marijuana grows,” Elder said in May, explaining that if other counties had as many grows “we would hear about it.”
Mapped out, the addresses offer the first picture of the size and scope of the area’s black market for marijuana, showing no part of the county is unaffected. The grows are nestled in residential neighborhoods where homes are separated by just a few feet, and amid endless fields in secluded parts of the county.
Several areas have been host to multiple busts: Royal Birkdale and Catch Pen roads in Falcon; Jones Road in Peyton; Big Springs and Yoder roads north of Yoder; Wiesner and Meier roads outside Ellicott; metro Woodland Park and Colorado Springs.
And law enforcement agencies say there’s another 650 illegal grows that have yet to be shut down.
“Up here, marijuana is the new meth, that’s how prevalent it is,” El Paso Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Schulz told The Gazette in March.