Pubdate: Tue, 13 Feb 2018
Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (MN)
Copyright: 2018 Star Tribune
Author: Tim Harlow


Latest stops in northwestern Minnesota show surge of drug traffic into
the state.

It seemed like an innocuous driving violation: A woman was motoring
through Otter Tail County in northwestern Minnesota with an obstructed
license plate. Then the observant state trooper discovered she was
sitting on packages of marijuana.

Troopers seized more than 300 pounds of the weed during the stop last
Friday, the latest of several large pot busts the State Patrol has
made in the past few weeks and a sign that the surge of large
quantities of pot and illegal drugs into Minnesota is continuing.

"When I see a big load like that, it makes me thankful those drugs did
not end up in the community," said Col. Matt Langer with the Minnesota
State Patrol.

Last year troopers took 2,642 pounds of marijuana, compared with just
390 pounds in 2016. The 2017 total was more than the patrol had
confiscated over the previous five years, Langer said.

This year is starting off like 2017, Langer said.

Troopers on Jan. 26 stopped another driver on Interstate 94 in Otter
Tail County with 200 pounds of marijuana valued at more than $600,000.
A trooper recognized what appeared to be criminal activity and
discovered the drug stash with the help of a canine dog.

Two days earlier, a trooper stopped a driver for speeding near
Alexandria. A search of the vehicle turned up 24 pounds of pot valued
at $8,200.

It's not just weed that troopers are finding. In 2017, the patrol
caught drivers transporting 160 pounds of methamphetamine, up from
65.7 pounds seized in 2016. Troopers also found 17.7 pounds of
cocaine, 14 pounds of heroin and nearly 10 pounds of hashish. All
quantities were more than double the amount found in 2016.

It's not clear if I-94 is becoming the new drug super highway, but
several of the arrests have occurred on the freeway running from the
Twin Cities northwest to the Fargo-Moorhead area.

"We are not sure if we are a step ahead or a step behind," Langer
said. "We see drugs on every road, but we have seen large quantities
in that area and we are paying attention to I-94."

Langer credits diligent troopers enforcing traffic laws for the large
busts. Troopers have been assisted by a 15 drug-sniffing dog teams,
the most the patrol has had in several years.

"We have very talented troopers who have encountered that stuff."
Langer said. "We are making our roads safer."
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MAP posted-by: Matt