Aug 15, 2009 5:26 AM by Nicole Vandeputte
It's a problem that local law enforcement say is steam-rolling our community. The abuse of medical marijuana.
A major bust last night shows how drastically laws have changed, when it comes to people growing marijuana. In a mobile home, in Black Forest, detectives found almost 200 marijuana plants growing. Brent Cunningham, the owner, had another hundred plants growing at another home.
Cunningham does have a medical marijuana card. That allows him to grow 6 plants per patient, but Lt. Al Harmon with Metro VNI says Cunningham couldn't show that he had any patients for those 300 plants. "It's very frustrating for law enforcement to know that they are using a Constitutional amendment to illegally grow marijuana."
Cunnigham was charged with cultivating marijuana, but this amendment allows him to keep all of his plants. "Law enforcement returns these plants to the defendant, or person in possession of these plants," says Deputy District Attorney Holly Dodge.
The state law states that the plants can't be destroyed before the suspect goes to court. That means law enforcement is liable if it is destroyed. They say they can't afford to keep it growing.
Lt. Harmon says, "It just ties law enforcements' hands." Dodge agrees, "It's difficult to say this is my major evidence, I'm going to leave it behind. That's hard for them, because they know there can be a harvest or sale of these plants."
District Attorney Dan May says medical marijuana is being abused, and it's become a public safety issue. "It's just something that hasn't just crept up on us, it's starting to steam roll us," he says.
15,000 people in Colorado have medical marijuana cards that allow them to legally get pot. By the end of the year, that number's expected to hit 30,000. Medical marijuana was made legal in the state to help people with chronic pain. May says the majority of patients are young men.
May says, aside from Boulder, El Paso County has the most marijuana distributors in the state.
He blames marijuana for two murders he's working, a house fire, and an increase in people arrested who are driving under the influence of the drug.
May is fighting back. He says he not trying to take away this amendment, but there needs to be stricter regulations. He's meeting with local law enforcement next week to discuss that. After that, he's talking with the Colorado Department of Health.