COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The executive director of the Southern Colorado Cannabis Council has contacted KRDO NewsChannel 13 to express concern about recent illegal marijuana raids by authorities in El Paso and Teller Counties.
In an email sent Friday, Jason Warf, of the SCCC, agrees that some of raids are legal but said that some possibly are illegal.
Warf believes that many of the grow operations considered illegal by authorities actually are producing plants for patients and caregivers, and he said the busts violate grow rights guaranteed by voter approval of Amendment 64.
"If we continue down this path, it is extremely likely that voters will work to overturn all regulation that we have put in place," he said.
Warf said the situation is why the SCCC broke away from its colleagues at the State Legislature last year and opposed House Bill 1220, which limits the number of plants that can be possessed or grown on the residential property.
"For 16 years, it was perfectly legal for a caregiver to have up to a 495-plant grow," he said. "These grows existed with very few issues. Law enforcement did this to recriminalize cannabis, and (Bill 1220) is now being used to again go after patients and caregivers."
Warf also blames paid cannabis lobbyists for supporting Bill 1220 because of "the misguided notion that this would force people into their stores."
"It does not create customers for our owners," he said.
He blames law enforcement for "looking to recoup lost revenue" and paid cannabis lobbyists for "trying to monopolize cannabis (and) increase profits."
Warf disputes a statistic -- provided Thursday after a hash oil raid by the Teller County Sheriff's Office -- that Colorado averages 30 deaths annually from explosions during hash oil production.
"That is just false," he said. "People are also portrayed to have connections to organized crime with most every arrest. This is also false 99 percent of the time."
Law enforcement in E Paso and Teller counties responded to Warf's comments.
"After reviewing some of what he put out, I'm very surprised at what he's saying," said Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell. "I think maybe he needs to become a little more educated in what's really happening in his local communities. The Legislature passed the law to allow us to stop black market marijuana."
Sheriff Bill Elder of El Paso County agrees.
"All the warrants we have executed are for illegal, black market grows," he said. "They are not in any way connected to medical marijuana harvesting. They don't have the proper paperwork. If it was anything less than that, we wouldn't enforce it and a judge wouldn't give us a search warrant."
Warf said he'll continue to watch the situation closely.
"It will be interesting to watch these (cases) in the courts," he said. "It could cost us in (marijuana) regulation. This (situation) is not happening because of anything to do with public safety. We would plead with law enforcement to use their very limited resources to focus on violent crime."
But Elder and Mikesell said they're seeing more violent crime connected with illegal marijuana operations.