COCCA’s Wide Net 

Colorado’s racketeering law has been a powerful tool for prosecuting illegal marijuana ‘enterprises’ while vexing defendants

Colorado’s legalization of retail and medical cannabis by no means eliminated the marijuana black market in the state. But state law enforcement has stepped up efforts in recent years to break up illicit pot-trafficking schemes.

Proving useful in that effort is a state criminal racketeering statute, the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act, which was originally enacted as a weapon against mafia and gang activity and is now a powerful tool in prosecuting marijuana crimes, among other offenses. COCCA’s broad language and stiff penalties — including a presumptive prison sentence of eight to 24 years — give the state leverage against marijuana criminal defendants who might be tied up in an “enterprise” of illegal activity.

Enacted in 1981, COCCA is Colorado’s version of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. Colorado is one of 31 states with its own racketeering statute. COCCA can be used to prosecute financial fraud, identity theft, human trafficking and other crimes committed through an organized system.

COCCA charges tend to show up in indictments aimed at large-scale drug trafficking operations, like last year’s “Operation Toker Poker” that was the largest marijuana trafficking bust since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. In June 2017, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office indicted 74 defendants in an alleged marijuana-trafficking ring that distributed thousands of pounds of marijuana over four years. In a black market scheme, defendants posed as caregivers to medical marijuana patients to grow marijuana en masse and ship it to neighboring states, according to the indictment. The state also claimed that the conspiracy ran through various business fronts, including marijuana consulting firms and grow supply stores.