An illegal marijuana operation in Westcliffe was busted by local authorities on Saturday, August 30. The drug business was confidentially revealed to the Custer County Sheriff’s Department, providing them with enough information to execute a search warrant in the Shadow Ridge subdivision, located just north of Westcliffe off the Lake DeWeese Road.
Authorities say the drug house was on Calcite Court, rented by Joseph Baldwin, 31, and Ryan Hirschberg, 23, and that both Baldwin and Hirschberg moved from Chicago, Ill. in order to establish the business.
“They were using private shipping companies like FedEx and UPS to send the marijuana back to Chicago,” said Custer County Sheriff Fred Jobe.
Deputies found approximately 300 plants and five pounds of marijuana in the basement operation.
Colorado laws only allow six plants and an ounce of marijuana in a home. The operation had no recreational growing license, either.
Baldwin and Hirschberg were arrested on Saturday, September 6, charged with cultivation, growth and production of marijuana. Both were held on $7,000 bonds each before they bonded out.
“They were running a very elaborate operation at that residence,” Sheriff Jobe said. “They had growing lights and an irrigation system in the basement.”
Sheriff Jobe stated that they are not yet sure who Baldwin and Hirschberg were shipping the marijuana to, but that the product they were cultivating was high grade. It had a street value of $50,000.
“The product appeared to have high THC concentrate,” Sheriff Jobe said. “It was very good.”
Sheriff Jobe also stated that Baldwin and Hirschberg had plans to hide the marijuana smell while the product was shipped to Chicago.
“They were in the process of perfecting that method when they were arrested,” Sheriff Jobe said.
The humidity and heat in the basement, over a longer period of time, would have destroyed the house. Sheriff Jobe stated that the illegal business wasn’t in operation long enough to destroy the home, but that it will need to be cleaned in order to make it safe for residents again.
Baldwin and Hirschberg will appear in District Court at a later date.
The Custer County Sheriff’s Department is continuing the investigation.
– J.E. Ward