Of late, the metro area has seen numerous arrests at home marijuana grows where the owners claimed to be licensed medical marijuana providers but appeared to have exceeded the approved number of plants -- just like Highlands Ranch's Chris Bartkowicz, who may be on the way to a plea deal after showing off his harvest to 9News.
The latest example? A bust in Edgewater yesterday that led to the seizure of 337 plants, according to Edgewater PD Commander Mike Marchese -- and all because the homeowner invited police responding to an unrelated incident inside. "He could have said, 'No,'" Marchese points out.
As Marchese tells it, police arrived at the home of Laef Oneil Fox, 30, reportedly following a domestic violence call. After officers knocked on his door, Fox asked them in, at which point they smelled marijuana -- not exactly shocking given the size of his grow.
That invitation led to Fox's arrest for marijuana cultivation and possession with the intent to distribute. And while it was helpful to police in this instance, Marchese notes that citizens "are not required to let officers in unless there are extenuating circumstances, or unless a warrant commands it. And we didn't have a warrant" in this case.
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The arrest was the first of its type in Edgewater since the marijuana boom began, Marchese points out, and he's not ready to hit the panic button as a result of this discovery. "Certainly, we have stores here that we never had before that are selling it," he says. "But that's legal -- and we're not seeing illegal operations proliferate.
"I think we're all getting to a comfort level with the legal operations," he continues. "These guys can sell it, and as long as they're following the law, there's nothing wrong with that. It's the ones that are flying below the radar that we don't know about, and if more of those pop up, we'll have a better barometer, and be able to compare and contrast."
In the meantime, he advises anyone in the medical marijuana business to be as diligent as they can to follow the law: "Just dot your i's and cross your t's."
On top of that, they might think twice about opening their door when the police arrive.