With the legalization of recreational marijuana has come a whole new level of craftiness in the ways in which people get their hands on the drug for its potential profits.
That was the case when a Wyoming patrolman discovered seven ounces of high-grade weed in trick-or-treat bags the day after Halloween. Then there was the incident in northern Colorado when police seized stuffed animals full of marijuana destined for Florida. There was a more sophisticated operation uncovered by law enforcement – also cited in a January Associated Press story – that involved 32 skydivers posing as licensed medical marijuana caregivers exporting tens of thousands of pounds of marijuana grown in a Denver warehouses to Minnesota. That ring of organizers made over $12 million before being indicted by authorities.
These cases and others confirm a longstanding fear of marijuana opponents that Colorado’s much-watched experiment in legal pot would invite more illegal trafficking to other states where the drug is still illegal.
According to the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federally funded drug task force, police agencies seized nearly two tons of Colorado weed from drivers who had intended to take it to 36 other states in 2014. That’s in comparison to less than a ton in 2009.
One source of that trafficking is Colorado residents or tourists who buy retail pot and take it out of state, but more concerning to authorities are larger-scale traffickers who move to the state specifically to grow the drug and then ship it to more lucrative markets.
That was the case of the 20 drug traffickers accused of relocating to Colorado to grow the marijuana that they sent to Florida to sell for double the price.
In the AP article, Barbra M. Roach, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Denver field division, explained that many of the illicit growers come from elsewhere and never even obtain a growing license or attempt to adhere to the law.
“It’s like hiding in plain sight,” said Roach.
Authorities in Washington, which also allows recreational marijuana, have noticed more marijuana leaving their state too. Upon its recreational legalization in Nevada, the Silver State can expect to see the same.
“There’s no question there’s a lot more of this activity than there was two years ago,” said Colorado’s U.S. Attorney John Walsh.
To add fuel to the fire, there’s no sure way to curb such activity.
Said Todd Reeves of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association who noted that a local UPS facility intercepts about 50 pounds of pot headed out of state each week, “We don’t have the resources to be able to go after every single one of these cases.”
That “is really hard to curb,” said Jason Warf, head of the Southern Colorado Cannabis Council. “We can’t essentially babysit adults and their behavior.”