Kansas: At The Crossroads of 'Marijuana Trafficking'
By Steve Elliott
With marijuana laws relaxing seemingly everywhere, the blossoming domestic cannabis industry has increased the quality of pot, and not just in states where it's legal for medical or recreational purposes. Neighboring states like Kansas have become way stations for the high-grade marijuana flowing to more populated cities to the east.
In the past, reports Roxana Hegeman at The Associated Press, most of the weed seized by cops came in the form of compressed bricks, much of it from Mexico and selling for between $400 and $500 a pound.
Just a few years back, 70 percent of the marijuana seized in Wichita was compressed, according to Chris Bannister of the undercover narcotics division of the Wichita Police Department. In contrast, today about 85 percent of the marijuana seized is "medical-grade," Bannister claimed, and just 15 percent is "traditional marijuana."
"The quality is there, the demand is there, and the price reflects that," Bannister said. "And it is driving down the price of traditional pressed marijuana."
"Drugs go east; cash goes west," said Chris Joseph, a Topeka lawyer who handles drug-related traffic cases. "Really the Colorado angle is that it is just a different source, it is not so much that the amount of drugs and money on the highways has really changed."
Last year, the Kansas Highway Patrol arrested 468 people for felony trafficking, seizing nearly 7,000 pounds of cannabis, according to information obtained by the AP through an open records request. The agency seized 2,654 pounds of pot and arrested 187 more people during the first six months of 2013.
A Kansas Highway Patrol analysis of 133 felony pot trafficking cases in early 2013 showed 79 seizures were of Colorado marijuana, with California pot next in 35 busts.
When a Kansas judge acquitted a Colorado man caught with medical marijuana -- ruling his arrest and prosecution "impermissibly interfered with his constitutional right to interstate travel" -- law enforcement appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court. The justices ruled in March that people who bring cannabis into Kansas can be prosecuted.
"Our goal should be to reduce the trafficking of marijuana into the United States from drug cartels in Mexico -- and Colorado is taking steps to eliminate that drug cartel activity," said Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, which maintains legal regulation of cannabis is better than the current uncontrolled trafficking.