PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. -- Using a UH-60 helicopter equipped with a hoist and nets, Colorado National Guardsmen are helping move an estimated 7,000 to 9,000 marijuana plants -- nearly $15 million in street value -- from two remote areas near Rye, Colo.
The grows are located on private property bordering the San Isabel National Forest.
Members of the Colorado National Guard Joint Counter-Drug Task Force's Drug Interdiction section were called to assist the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office move the plants, which are growing in steep terrain that's impassible by motor vehicle.
The operation, which is largest marijuana bust in Pueblo County history and one of the largest ever in Colorado, began Aug. 15.
Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor led the multi-agency operation known as "Operation Flypaper" to extricate the marijuana grows.
According to Taylor, markers indicate these grows could be part of a larger Mexican drug cartel operation.
“If you don’t think they’re here, they are, and if we pass Amendment 64, there’s going to be a lot more of them,” he said.
In November, Amendment 64 will allow Colorado voters to decide whether to legalize marijuana in the state. If passed, the measure will allow someone 21 or older to poses up to one ounce of the drug and grow up to six plants.
Other teams involved in the bust represent the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, Narcotics Division, Special Weapons And Tactics team, the Special Tactics And Techniques team, and Emergency Services Bureau; the Pueblo Police Department’s SWAT team and Narcotics Unit; the U.S. Forest Service; and the CO-JCDTF.
The CO-JCDTF supports local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, community-based organizations and schools with a variety of services to help rid Colorado communities of the effects of drug abuse and associated social issues.