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In tiny Nebraska towns, a flood of Colorado marijuana

  1. ZenobiaSky
    SEDGWICK, Colo. — 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 six 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 new store. "For people coming in from the east, he's basically cornering the market, cutting four hours off a trip because they don't have to go to Denver."

    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.

    "Is it all coming from Colorado? Hell no. It's coming from all over. But I can tell you our numbers are double what they were last year," said BJ Wilkinson, the police chief in Sidney, Neb., a town of about 7,000, which is about 10 miles from the Colorado border. "Twice as often now, when we walk up to a car, we can smell burned marijuana."

    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. Wilkinson and Hayward say the offenders who drive that pot across state lines are clogging their small court systems and jails, not Colorado's. Legalization proponents have long argued that eliminating penalties for possessing such a widely used drug makes more sense than demonizing it.

    Wilkinson said his officers are on track to make twice as many marijuana-related arrests this year as they did in 2013, when there were 35. 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, 2014.

    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.

    "Is it all coming from Colorado? Hell no. It's coming from all over. But I can tell you our numbers are double what they were last year," said BJ Wilkinson, the police chief in Sidney, Neb., a town of about 7,000, which is about 10 miles from the Colorado border. "Twice as often now, when we walk up to a car, we can smell burned marijuana."

    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. Wilkinson and Hayward say the offenders who drive that pot across state lines are clogging their small court systems and jails, not Colorado's. Legalization proponents have long argued that eliminating penalties for possessing such a widely used drug makes more sense than demonizing it.

    Wilkinson said his officers are on track to make twice as many marijuana-related arrests this year as they did in 2013, when there were 35. 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, 2014.


    Trevor Hughes
    USATODAY
    8:28 p.m. EDT June 11, 2014
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/06/11/colorado-marijuana-exports/9964707/

    The Newhawks Crew

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