The North Metro Drug Task Force has been leading an investigation into a large-scale marijuana takedown ironically dubbed "Operation Sweet Leaf" that led to at least 16 arrests this morning with more to come.
According to 9News, SWAT teams began raiding 25 metro-area homes at 6 a.m. and have uncovered at least 1,000 plants. Many of the arrests were made in upscale neighborhoods in Denver, Broomfield, Thornton and Westminster, causing about seven children to be taken in by social services.
Interestingly enough, news of the mass arrests comes the same day as Colorado dispensaries and medical marijuana activists are staging a "Medical Marijuana Day of Action" in response to U.S. Attorney John Walsh's first wave of seizure letters to dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools.
The arrests in this crackdown, which included men and women, did not involve medical marijuana however and are expected to include about 10 more during the next week according to North Metro Drug Task Force Cmdr. Jeffery Peters.
"Evidence gathered during the investigation demonstrates that much of the marijuana grow was being shipped out of state and was not being produced for medical purposes," 17th Judicial District spokeswoman Krista Flannigan told KDVR.
Authorities say that the grow operation is suspected of growing the plants in Colorado and shipping them to as many as eight other states via the U.S. Postal Service.
So far there are a total of 69 charges included in the 16 arrest warrants which include racketeering and conspiracy under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act, Distribution of Marijuana, Possession of Marijuana with the Intent to Distribute, Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana and Money Laundering.
The joint investigation was large enough that it involved the North Metro Drug Task Force, Denver Narcotics Bureau, South Metro Drug Task Force, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service.
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