Pubdate: Wed, 05 Mar 2014
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2014 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Trevor Hughes


While comedians poke fun at Colorado as the Wild West of Weed, cops
say there's little evidence anything has changed significantly since
marijuana was legalized in the state whose capital, Denver, is known
as the Mile-High City.

On Jan. 1, Colorado allowed licensed marijuana dealers to open stores
where adults can buy up to an ounce of pot at a time. Those stores
have seen long lines and short supplies as Coloradans and out-of-state
visitors buy marijuana. And while there may be a perception that
neighboring troopers are camping out on the state line to snap up
smugglers, there's no evidence that massive amounts of marijuana are
flowing out of the state.

Late-night TV's Jimmy Kimmel cracked: "The new state slogan is 'Come
for the legal marijuana, stay because you forgot to leave.'"

And The Tonight Show's Jimmy Fallon chimed in with his own dig:
"Colorado expects to make $100 million over the next year from taxing
legalized marijuana. Their governor, John Hickenlooper ... says he
will use a lot of that money to build new schools. They've even
announced some of the names of those schools. First we have 'U. Holden
Academy,' next we have 'Hot Pocket Prep' and here's our last one here,
'St. Mary Jane's.'"

Despite all the attention, though, states surrounding Colorado have
seen little effect, police say.

"I've heard people saying it's becoming an epidemic, and it's
certainly not," says Capt. Scott Harrington of the Kansas Highway
Patrol, whose troopers patrol the eastern boundary of Colorado. "It's
status quo. We're just not seeing something that turns our heads."

On the northern Colorado border, Wyoming state trooper Karl Germain
and his drug-sniffing dog, Bonnie, are keeping a close eye out for
anyone smuggling marijuana north on Interstate 25 from the Denver
area, or east and west on Interstate 80. The two highways see heavy
traffic from truckers, tourists and other people crisscrossing the
nation's heartland. Germain says Wyoming's troopers are well aware of
what's going on in Colorado but haven't seen problems.

"Our primary focus is the safety of the people on the roadway,"
Germain says, after issuing a written warning to a speeding driver.
"We're not out here profiling. We're not out here stopping everyone
with Colorado plates. As long as they're not impaired, and they don't
bring it back, it's none of my business."

Officials with the Utah, New Mexico and Nebraska state patrols all say
the same thing: They aren't doing anything different and they aren't
seeing any changes. They remain focused on dangerous drivers
regardless of their license plates or direction of travel.

"We're not setting up at the border," says Capt. Tyler Kotter of the
Utah Department of Public Safety. Kotter says it stands to reason that
more marijuana will be moving through Utah along Interstate 70. "We
haven't seen any trends yet."

Still, a lot of people seem to believe that drivers leaving Colorado
are being targeted. Denver Defense Attorney Rob Corry has heard it

"The story runs the same: They are detained for two hours while the
police dismantle their vehicles," says Corry, a well-known marijuana
activist. "They find nothing and later admit it was because they're
from Colorado."

Corry says he has no evidence to back up those complaints but has
heard more than a handful over the past couple of months.

Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Colorado, says
federal prosecutors are keeping a close eye out for any changes in
drug movements. He, too, has heard anecdotes about drivers leaving
Colorado being profiled but has no examples.

"It's an area of concern, and it's a priority that the Department of
Justice has told us to engage in," he says. "There is a concern about
people visiting this state and taking their marijuana home with them."

Back on the Wyoming border, Bonnie the drug dog dozes in the back of
the marked Tahoe while Germain patrols I-25 and worries aloud about
balancing drivers' constitutional rights with highway safety. He's
more worried about stoned drivers than smugglers, he says, and won't
be pulling anyone over without justification. The Colorado State
Patrol is training about 60 new troopers in how to recognize stoned
drivers - an effort to catch them before they cause crashes.

Germain says what people do in Colorado is their business - just don't
get caught with any marijuana on his side of the border.

"The law is the law," he says. "We respect that."
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