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Illegal marijuana grows in County double from last year - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Illegal marijuana grows in County double from last year

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Illegal marijuana grows in Colorado have been on the rise since recreational legalization. Outdoor grows in rural areas like eastern El Paso County are at an all time high.

Outdoor grows are more common in rural areas, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office thinks people believe they can get away with illegal grows where there's more land.

"I can drive down any rural road out there and I can pick out two or three grows just by looking at it," said EPCSO Deputy Jeff Schulz.

Marijuana grows in the county have doubled in a year, "We're up into the 500 mark," said Schulz, "So we've absolutely seen the jump, probably doubled in the last year of grows that we've come familiar with or know about."

Another bust in Yoder this week highlights the main problem, people are growing in rural areas of the county where less deputies or officers are positioned.

"People that grow marijuana illegally think that it's just perfectly okay in the State of Colorado to do that, not knowing that there's restrictions based on the state, but also based on the county so they come here to do it and earn quite a bit of money from it," said Schulz.

When arrests are made usually sentencing is light, people can bail themselves out and start growing again. Each raid requires significant manpower usually involving SWAT.

"You're talking 20 to 30 people just for one grow," said Schulz, "And then you're talking a ten to twelve even a fourteen hour process by the time you cut everything down and process it."

More money for enforcement especially in rural areas, and harsher penalties could be the only way to cut down the grows.

"We're getting to the grows as fast as we possibly can with what we have and we'll continue to do it going forward," said Schulz. 

El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder has seen enough, a post on his Facebook reads, "So here is the issue. Over 500 grows like this in El Paso County are not compliant with regulations. Note to growers- we are coming and we will take it all away and then put you in jail."

Deputy Schulz also thinks the new limit of 16 plants, down from 99 plants, that goes into effect in 2018 and will help law enforcement spot more illegal grows.

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