The Denver Post
Demand for medical marijuana in Colorado has grown so fast in the past few months that it has outstripped the production of legal "grow" operations and is now probably being supplied by international drug cartels, say some local sheriffs and agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
And as dispensaries proliferate throughout the state, police and lawyers say they are worried about the peripheral crime rising around the shops intended to function as pharmacies, selling medical marijuana prescribed to people who suffer one of eight conditions, ranging from chronic pain to glaucoma.
"Dispensaries are popping up like mushrooms," said DEA special agent-in-charge Jeffrey Sweetin. "Now we have thousands of 20- to 25-year-olds carrying cards. And the cartels are getting rich off this law."
Last summer, the Colorado Board of Health declined to limit the number of patients that medical marijuana dispensaries could service.
The result, health department spokesman Mark Salley said, was a boom in the number of people who received cards allowing them to purchase medical pot. There are now 13,000 people in possession of such cards.
Colorado, which approved medical marijuana in 2000, is one of 14 states that permit it.
The number of Colorado dispensaries is not tracked by the state health department or any other agency.
Legal grow operations linked to dispensaries are limited to six cannabis plants each.
By contrast, most of the street pot comes from big, outdoor grows, such as the three operations — within a 5-mile radius of Chatfield Reservoir — busted by DEA officials last summer. Sweetin said one grow had 14,000 plants that averaged 5 to 6 feet tall.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The Denver Post