Man accused in huge black-market plot: Only 99 of these weed plants are mine

In September, authorities raided the property with a SWAT team, identifying about 2,500 pounds of marijuana.
3 min. read
Marijuana at Verde Natural’s grow facility. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Prosecutors have accused Michael Stonehouse, 53, of masterminding a huge illegal marijuana operation that shipped hundreds of pounds of weed out of Colorado each month.

But he had an explanation ready when law enforcement showed up at one alleged outpost in the operation: It's not all my weed.

Investigators with a multi-jurisdiction task force and Elbert County deputies showed up at the site in Elizabeth, Colorado in August 2015, according to a search warrant.

And the purported operator, Stonehouse, granted them permission to enter, reportedly telling them to "Bring the whole task force in."

That's exactly what they would do – eventually.

But on this initial visit, Stonehouse “seemed eager to cooperate and commented he believed the operation was completely legal," according to the investigators' report. He offered them a tour, saying that only 99 of the roughly 900 plants belonged to him.

Colorado law currently allows medical marijuana patients to grow 99 plants for themselves, and some band together to grow lots of plants in one place. That appears to be the justification here. The state is in the process of making those laws more restrictive.

Stonehouse reportedly said that he "did not know who the plants belonged to," and wouldn't know until they came to the property. There were no medical registrations on display, according to the warrants.

He had learned to grow marijuana on YouTube, he reportedly told the investigators.

The investigators also spoke to Theodore Stonehouse about this apparently laissez-faire approach to cooperative growing.

One investigator asked Theodore Stonehouse if he knew about Colorado state limits on marijuana plant growing. "Your affiant told Ted that if he was investing a substantial amount of time and money into any enterprise, that person should know what the rules were regarding that business," the documents state.

"Ted agreed."

In September, authorities raided the property with a SWAT team, identifying about 2,500 pounds of marijuana.

In March 2017, prosecutors won indictments against 16 people. Based on confidential sources, tapped phones and GPS trackers, they accused Michael Stonehouse and company of running a sprawling inter-state operation, including a large warehouse in Denver.

The enterprise “evolved into a distribution ring from Colorado to Arkansas, to Illinois, to Missouri, and Minnesota,” the indictment states. It is “highly profitable for them to illegally ship large amounts of marijuana and marijuana concentrate out of Colorado.”

Speaking to The Denver Post, Stonehouse's lawyer reportedly accused prosecutors of over-inflating the case for political gain. Stonehouse had an active marijuana business license, as did numerous other people accused in the case, the Post reported.

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