Homeland Security Enlisted For Local Medical Marijuana Probe


Photo: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
I don’t feel like a terrorist. Do you?

‚ÄčThe U.S. Department of Homeland Security apparently doesn’t have enough real terrorists to chase. Now they’re going after medical marijuana growers.

A Colorado Springs police detective has enlisted the help of Homeland Security in a local medical marijuana investigation. Homeland Security sent a plane with thermal imaging equipment and two federal Border Patrol agents to Colorado to fly over a warehouse which was a suspected pot growing site, and the spy equipment revealed the warehouse was generating a lot of heat, reports Joel Millman of the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Police Detective M. Lehmkuhl flew over the warehouse with the federal gents, and concluded “there is a clandestine marijuana growing operation being conducted at the address,” the detective claimed in an affidavit seeking a search warrant, which was granted.
The resulting search on May 12, and others by the local Metro Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence squad, were criticized at the time by dispensary owners and advocates for the local medical marijuana industry.
Many said that it amounted to harassment by local law enforcement officials who have never been quite able to come to the terms with the fact that medical marijuana is now legal in Colorado, and has been for the past decade.
According to the affidavit submitted to El Paso County Court Judge Marla Rochelle Prudek that led to the police search of the warehouse where marijuana was being grown, the business came under suspicion because it was using an “abnormally high” amount of electricity, damaging a transformer.
A Colorado Springs Utilities repair crew in March noticed condensation on the windows of the warehouse, which were covered with black plastic sheeting. They reported this to the police, and at that point Detective Lehmkuhl learned the warehouse was occupied by a business using “caregiver” as part of its incorporated name.
Since “caregiver” is a term widely used by dispensaries and growers in the medical marijuana industry, that apparently meant, at least in Detective Lehmkuhl’s mind, that a drug raid needed to occur — despite the obvious connection to legal, medical marijuana.
According to the affidavit, Lehmkuhl further determined that the owner of the business had been convicted of a felony back in 1998 for growing pot. In April, the intrepid detective went to the warehouse, where he claims he saw, through an open door, several plants he suspected were marijuana.
That’s when Detective Lehmkuhl brought in Homeland Security with their thermal imaging equipment and their airplane.
His experience investigating “drug operations” and the “evidence” he’d gathered led Lehmkuhl to claim “there is a clandestine marijuana growing operation being conducted at the address,” the detective stated in the affidavit seeking the search warrant.
Bob Wiley of Sensible Colorado, a nonprofit which advocates for drug policy reform, questioned the resources that went into investigating a grower who, he said, is just as likely a legal provider of medical marijuana as a criminal.
“It sounds like a waste of money,” Wiley said Tuesday. “Why didn’t they just knock on the door and ask, ‘Are you part of a legitimate medical marijuana growing operation?'”
Wiley said that going after legitimate dispensaries is “intimidation” tactics and a “reprehensible” attempt to force medical marijuana back on to the black market.
No charges have yet been filed, and none of the cases has yet been submitted to the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s office, according to police spokesman Sgt. Steve Noblitt.