Grow house bust reflective of larger problem

By Vanessa Murphy |, Neb Solomon

Published 02/10 2016 03:56PM

Updated 02/10 2016 11:26PM

More medical marijuana dispensaries mean a larger black market for the drug. That led law enforcement to a home near Pecos Road and Hacienda Avenue Wednesday, where police busted a marijuana grow house.

Police say the marijuana grown inside could be linked to an illegal drug delivery service commonly found online.

“The last couple of days, my husband went on our side patio, kept saying, ‘I smell a weird smell,’” neighbor Sharon Israel said. “I said I have no idea what that is.”

A drug task force found more than 100 marijuana plants and a complex grow operation inside the house in the Paradise neighborhood.

“It's just a shame to see something like this happen,” said neighbor Michael Conti.

Metro Police say the drugs have a street value of up to $300,000. The equipment is valued at $15,000 to $20,000.

“You're literally giving criminals an open invitation right to your house,” said Metro Police Sgt. Craig Lousignont.

He says customers of drug delivery services are becoming victims of crimes such as robberies, burglaries and identity theft, since the services ask for personal information.

“The criminals are growing this product using drugs and pesticides that aren't acceptable, and then they're selling them on different websites to legitimate customers who think that it's a legitimate service, but it's not,” Sgt. Lousignont said.

Legal dispensaries like Oasis Medical Cannabis near Industrial Road and Wyoming Avenue are competing with this black market.

“It is a blatant disregard for the law,” said Oasis Medical Cannabis CEO Ben Sillitoe. 

He points to the state and city taxes his business pays, as well as the tight regulations.

“It's completely different than what's going on inside that grow house where who knows what is going on with it?” he said.

The product at Oasis may cost more, but he says patients know what they're getting.

“If it's not handled properly or grown properly, they could actually be making themselves more sick,” he said.

Police say one of the best ways for a medical marijuana patient to ensure they're using a legal dispensary is to confirm the place has a storefront.

Oasis Medical Cannabis, for example, delivers marijuana. Employees wear a uniform. They have state ID cards, and they've gone through background checks,

Police say arrests from the illegal grow house are pending. The people growing marijuana there do not own or rent the home, according to Metro; it is a bank-owned property. A worker checked on the home Wednesday and made the discovery.

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