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Police chief says town's home grow restrictions key to enforcement

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CastleRockBound's picture
Joined: 10/30/2012
Police chief says town's home grow restrictions key to enforcement

On March 17, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler announced the end of a months-long investigation into what officials say was an organized crime ring in which pot was illegally grown around the metro area and trafficked out of state, allegedly led by Castle Rock resident Michael Stonehouse.

The suspects produced about 300 pounds of marijuana a month and Stonehouse received more than $1 million in cash deposits between 2014 and 2016, according to the indictment.

By Brauchler's side were representatives from the Drug Enforcement Administration and local jurisdictions, including Castle Rock Police Chief Jack Cauley.

It was a big day for law enforcement, not only because of the indictment of 16 suspects, but because the investigation shed light on how Colorado's marijuana laws are being circumvented by

organized crime, officials said.

The issue is one Cauley believes he and his officers are well prepared for.

As Brauchler spoke, Cauley kept what he called one of his greatest law enforcement tools in his pocket — a folded up, paper copy of the town's ordinance restricting residential marijuana grows.

“Council began looking at a local marijuana ordinance after residents voiced multiple concerns due to neighborhood grow operations,” Mayor Jennifer Green said of the 2015 ordinance.

The ordinance is a critical tool, Cauley said, because it provides officers the ability to police large-scale grows.

It confines a home grow to a space no more than 32 square feet and 10 feet in height, effectively restricting the plant count. Cauley said they opted to restrict space rather than enact a specific plant count because counting plants at large-scale grows can become tedious and difficult for officers.

Growers must follow building codes and install ventilation systems that contain the smell of marijuana within the property. The ordinance also stipulates that the grows be in a primary residence and that renters have written permission from their landlord.

“Having an ordinance in pla

ce sets guidelines for marijuana growth within the town limits and allows police to take action due to resident complaints if there is a violation against the items outlined in the ordinance,” Green said.

Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 in 2012 — though 55 percent of Douglas County voters opposed it — legalizing recreational marijuana. It permitted local governments to place certain restrictions on its cultivation. But before town council passed the ordinance in 2015, the police department had little room to enforce any limitations.

Home grows became a problem between 2012 and 2015, Cauley said. As legalized marijuana took hold in Colorado communities, Castle Rock police saw home grows as large as 300 plants pop up in town.

“Many of the grows that we have responded to I'd say in the last several years have been individuals who have traveled here from other states and rented homes with the intent to grow large amounts of marijuana illegally and sell,” he said.

Additionally, Cauley said, and regardless of grow size, the police department saw an increase in complaints about residential marijuana grows in town, mostly related to smell.

Similar local measures, although largely supported, were not without criticism. When Douglas County enacted its 12-plant limit in 2016, also a product of citizen complaints, Castle Rock resident Eric Medina worried it would restrict growers' ability to supply medical marijuana.

“You're going to cause more people to want to grow because they can't team up with someone,” he told commissioners at an August 2016 public hearing.

Cauley personally helped research and write Castle Rock's ordinance unanimously approved by council. Two years later, in the wake of the recent arrests linked to the suspected marijuana-trafficking ring, he's says he's grateful to have a way to regulate home grows at the local level.

“The ordinance has been a tremendous help for the police department in addressing concerns related to marijuana grows in our community,” he said. “Citations have been issued and we have also seen individuals, once they have been educated about the ordinance, tear down their operation and cease cultivating the marijuana, or leaving that residence and going to another location outside the town.”,244789