El Paso County cracking down on illegal grows, thanks to new law

Posted at 10:59 PM, Apr 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-14 00:59:47-04

Sheriff Bill Elder says when it comes to illegal marijuana grows in El Paso County, he’s looking to clean house in 2018.

"My goal is to hit over 300 grows by the end of the year," he said.

Elder says the black market is taking an especially bad toll on property values.

"When I moved here, it was a real friendly neighborhood.  Had I known it was this many rentals on this street, I’d have never bought here," Ed Cook told News5 back in March, after a large bust was made in his neighborhood.

So far this year–the Sheriff’s Office has seized 12 million dollars worth of marijuana plants, and executed 30 search warrants.

Elder says that’s thanks to a new law that went into effect this year, limiting plant counts in residential areas to 12.

Prior to 2018, he says many black market growers were taking advantage of a legal loophole in the state–some of them growing upwards of 600 plants.

"It was legal if they had the proper paperwork.  And most of the growers had the paperwork to grow very large quantities," he explained.

Another challenge was getting a search warrant.

Up until January 1st–this was a civil violation–and Elder says it was tough to prove otherwise.

"Now it is a criminal case.  We can get a search warrant on a criminal case.  When we believe there ar larger grows–over six plants–it’s simple to get a search warrant."

So far, 16 arrests have been made, though arrests warrants have been issued for about 20 more.

"Almost every single grow that we interdict has some information that leads to another arrest, another search, another piece to the big puzzle."