Colorado’s "green rush" has been nothing but a bust for Ryan Bailey.
For the second time in about five years, Bailey is behind bars for allegedly opening a hefty package of marijuana that was shipped from Colorado to Chicago through the United Parcel Service.
UPS alerted the Chicago Police Department that a strong odor of cannabis was coming from a package sent from Colorado, authorities say. Police obtained a warrant to search the package, which allegedly contained nearly 7 pounds of weed. The package was delivered to a cell phone store in the 300 block of East 47th Street and Bailey was arrested on Jan. 7 after he allegedly opened it, police said.
The return address on the package was for a fictitious shipping company in Aurora, Colorado, just east of Denver, police said.
Bailey and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
Authorities said the 32-year-old was part of the stampede of young entrepreneurs who rushed to Colorado to make a fortune in the medical marijuana industry about five years ago, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The former mortgage broker moved to Colorado and grew marijuana plants in a warehouse outside Denver. His wife operated a small medical marijuana dispensary in Denver.
Soon, though, Bailey was at odds with the cops in Colorado for allegedly exceeding the 30 plants a month he was allowed to grow. They raided his warehouse and seized more than 670 plants, authorities say. Bailey was acquitted in that case.
Later in 2010, Chicago police officers raided a home on the Northwest Side of Chicago and found Bailey holding a package containing more than 40 pounds of marijuana valued at more than $300,000. UPS delivered that package to Chicago, too.
In 2012, Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood sentenced Bailey to six years in prison for felony marijuana possession. He was on parole from Aug. 1 until his latest arrest in January. He has been sent back to prison, where he is awaiting trial on his latest felony marijuana possession charge. His next court hearing is May 12.
In a brief interview with the Chicago Sun-Times – before he was sentenced in the 2012 case – Bailey reflected on his hard luck in the medical marijuana business.
"Some people in the industry have gotten lucky," he said at the time. "Other guys like me have gotten caught in the system."
Marco Vasquez, the police chief in Erie, Colo., north of Denver said drug traffickers take advantage of a “gray market” in Colorado.
“We have very little as far as any regulatory oversight or authority of the non-commercial marijuana industry here in Colorado,” said Vasquez, who serves as a marijuana expert for the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
So-called “caregivers,” for instance, can grow pot for up to five patients and there’s a financial incentive to divert some of their crop to other states like Illinois where the prices are three or four times higher, Vasquez said. Regulation of caregivers is minimal, he said.
In the state-regulated medical marijuana industry, on the other hand, Colorado regulators and cops can check inventories of the dispensaries and cultivation centers, Vazquez said.
Illinois authorities said they don’t anticipate the fledgling medical marijuana industry here will become involved in crooked out-of-state pot sales. Up to 21 medical marijuana farmers and 60 dispensaries will receive licenses — a tiny fraction of Colorado’s — and they will be highly regulated, officials say.