The organization, which was based on the northern Front Range, was capable of producing and distributing hundreds of pounds of marijuana, with much of that going out of state, according to an indictment unsealed Friday. Meanwhile, the people involved in the ring kept copies of Colorado medical-marijuana patient records to provide a veneer of legality, according to the indictment.
The ring is the biggest operation to date that officials have accused of exploiting medical-marijuana laws to shield black-market activities.
In a statement, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers suggested the indictment is a mark against Colorado’s medical-marijuana system.
“This case, while disturbing, should come as no surprise to Coloradans who have been concerned that there is a nexus between Colorado’s booming medical-marijuana industry and illegal distribution of the drug,” Suthers said.
Medical-marijuana advocate Brian Vicente, though, said Suthers went too far, using allegations not proven in court to implicate all medical marijuana.
“Certainly one case with a small number of citizens shouldn’t be looked at as an indictment of our state’s constitutional amendment and our state’s 100,000-plus patients,” Vicente said.
Nine people were named in the 21-count indictment unsealed Friday. Six of those, including accused ringleaders Richard Caleel, 34, and Lakshman Garin, 28, had already been charged late last year in an earlier, sealed indictment.
Also named in the indictment were: Buck Glanz, 28; Magin Gomez, 30; Micah Krout, 29; Clayton McCann, 28; Charles Whitson, 28; Austin Leard, 29; and Laura Vanwormer, 44.
Neither the indicted nor their attorneys could be reached for comment.
The state attorney general’s office and the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force spearheaded the investigation, but the cases are being prosecuted in Jefferson County district court.
Attorney general’s spokesman Mike Saccone said the medical-marijuana patient records used by the ring were legitimate, but he wouldn’t say how the ring obtained them. The indictment alleges that the ring was “wholly illegal,” and Northern Colorado Drug Task Force Sgt. Gary Shaklee said in a statement that much of the marijuana grown under the guise of patient care was sold out of state in New Mexico.
Saccone said the investigators believe ring members moved to Colorado from New Mexico — which has stricter rules for medical-marijuana-growing — to exploit Colorado’s laws.
Dan Hartman, head of the state Revenue Department’s Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, said none of those indicted had submitted an application to form a legitimate medical- marijuana business. That made it easier for law enforcement officials to investigate the case, Hartman said.
“We now have a bright line with which to distinguish between those working within the legitimate Colorado medical-marijuana industry and those engaging in illicit activity,” Hartman said in a statement.
via : Denver Post
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