Pubdate: Thu, 12 Jun 2014
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2014 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Trevor Hughes
Page: 3A


Pot Arrests Have Skyrocketed Across State Lines

A marijuana store owner this week opened up a new frontier in the
ongoing cat-and-mouse border war between pot buyers and police
officers across the Nebraska state line just 6 miles away.

Sedgwick Alternative Relief opened for legal marijuana sales Saturday
in this town of about 150 people tucked into Colorado's far northeast
corner, more than 170 miles from Denver.

Police officers in small Nebraska towns along the Colorado border say
they've seen a massive influx of marijuana flowing into and through
their communities, particularly along the east-west Interstate 80.

They say it's now only natural to expect even more pot will find its
way across the border, where it remains illegal. "He's probably going
to be the busiest guy in Colorado," said Deuel County Sheriff Adam
Hayward from his office in Chappell, Neb., about 15 miles from the
marijuana store.

As states across the country increasingly legalize medical marijuana,
and consider legalizing recreational marijuana, Hayward said the last
few years provide solid lessons for the accompanying challenges.

Felony drug arrests in Chappell - just 7 miles north of the Colorado
border along a dusty dirt road - have skyrocketed 400% in three years,
and deputies say they are seeing large amounts of marijuana moving
through their area, Hayward said.

Last fall, Hayward and another deputy stopped a man for speeding on
I-80 and discovered the previously convicted felon's minivan was
stacked with totes and buckets stuffed with 75 pounds of marijuana,
assorted pot products and a loaded handgun. For cops such as Hayward,
that arrest and many others prove that Colorado's legalization is
having impacts far beyond its own borders.

Colorado law limits non-resident sales to no more than a quarter of an
ounce at a time, and bars anyone from possessing more than one ounce.
Hayward says the offenders who drive that pot across state lines are
clogging their small court systems and jails, not Colorado's.

The federally funded Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking
Area team says it has documented a 13,000% increase in marijuana
seizures in its four-state operating area from 2005 to 2012. Those
statistics were gathered before recreational sales of marijuana became
legal in Colorado on Jan. 1.

Tom Gorman, who runs the task force, said many dispensaries are
selling "out the back door" to buyers willing to risk getting caught
in return for doubling their money.

"It's the perfect storm for it to happen," Gorman said. "Legalized
grows. Legalized sales. And phenomenal quality."

Marijuana store owner Michael Kollarits said he and his small staff
are telling non-residents to consume their pot in Colorado.

"We said, No. 1, do not ask me for advice on how to take this out of
this state. And No. 2, if you do, prepare to give up your firearms,
give up your right to vote," Kollarits said. "We want to be the first
stop people make in Colorado, not the last."
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