Our Thomas Mitchell recently reported about a petition to ban all marijuana businesses in Pueblo County.
Against this backdrop comes word about two busts of illegal marijuana grows in the jurisdiction — events that could become politicized by both supporters and opponents of the ban.
The incidents resulted in the arrests of nine men from Florida, as well as the confiscation of marijuana plants, firearms and gear used to make hash oil.
The first action took place on the morning of Wednesday, March 30, and involved five separate houses in the Pueblo West area.
Narcotics agents with the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, in cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Pueblo Police Department, the Colorado State Patrol and more, swept residences at 127 S. Tequila Drive, 230 S. Siesta Drive, 461 S. Siesta Drive, 462 S. Siesta Drive and 1172 S. Camino Santiago Drive.
Four of the five homes were rentals.
According to the PCSO, 1,900 illegally grown marijuana plans "with a street value of $7.6 million" were grabbed over the course of the operation, along with $250,000 in "butane hash oil production equipment" and "numerous weapons" seen in the photo gallery below.
Those busted were Derek Breckbill, 25; Dennis Rodriguez, 45; Richard “Dick” Sample, 33; Daniel Bingham, 27; Nathaniel Clawson, 30; Gary Bruce, 31; and Angel Rodriguez, 47.
Others were detained for questioning and later released. One home is said to have been occupied by, among others, "a five-month-old child and an elderly woman on oxygen."
The next day, March 31, two more Floridians were arrested after authorities found "127 marijuana plants and at least $100,000 in marijuana grow supplies" at 347 S. Hidalgo Drive.
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They're identified as Adriel Trujillo Daniel, 28, and Leosbel Ledesma Quintana, 41, a pair of Cuban natives most recently living in Miami. The PCSO maintains that they'd "been living in Pueblo West for less than two weeks and did not appear to have any employment ties to the area."
You can bet supporters of the marijuana ban petition will cite arrests and seizures like these as proof that cannabis is drawing criminals to Pueblo.
A statement by the Pueblo County Board of Commissioners, which opposes the petition, represents the other side of the argument. It reads in part: "This latest ballot initiative would close retail marijuana establishments, not prohibit the consumption of marijuana. If passed, Pueblo residents would be forced to purchase from the black market for a legal product."
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Look below to see more photos from the first series of raids, followed by mug shots of all nine men arrested.
Continue to see photos of the nine Florida men arrested in two recent Pueblo County marijuana raids.