Seizures of illegal pot from Colorado up 400 percent

Greg Campbell | Contributor

Marijuana is being smuggled out of Colorado in record amounts, according to a new report by a multi-agency drug task force, citing a 400 percent increase in pot seizures since 2005 from the state that has become something of an American Amsterdam.

In 2012, highway patrol officers made 274 seizures of Colorado marijuana destined for other states, compared to 54 in 2005. Those attempted deliveries were bound for 37 different states, according to the report by law enforcement organizations composing the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

The average weight of the drugs seized also increased by 77 percent, from an average annual weight of 2,220 pounds during the period from 2005-2008 to an average of 3,937 from 2009-2012.

The number of people trying to mail pot to other states is also on the rise.

“In 2010, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service seized 15 packages with Colorado marijuana destined for other states,” the report reads. “Seizures steadily increased through 2012 when 158 parcels were seized. From 2010 to 2012 Colorado marijuana seized by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service increased from 57 to 262 pounds.”

The report was meant to document the impacts of legalized medical marijuana. It also shows increases in use by young people and an increase in traffic fatalities involving people who test positive for marijuana, although traffic fatalities overall are down.

Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2000, but the industry didn’t flourish until late 2009. In November, Colorado voters passed Amendment 64, which legalizes marijuana for recreational use by adults. Retail sale of recreational pot is expected to begin in January. Washington voters passed a similar law.

The study contains only data collected before 2013, so it doesn’t attempt to measure the impact of Amendment 64.

But, “the four-year experience with medical marijuana in Colorado may be indicative of what to expect,” it notes.

Law enforcement agencies in neighboring states have complained for years that pot that’s legal in Colorado was flooding across their borders, but the report makes clear that Colorado marijuana has been found far from home.

Of the top 10 states where marijuana has been intercepted in the mail, only one borders Colorado. They are Illinois, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Minnesota, Maryland, Iowa, Massachusetts, Kansas and Virginia.

“At least 50 percent of everything I get is from one of those states where it is legal to grow — Colorado and California — and marked with kid-catchy names like ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘Orange Crush,’” said a Chicago police officer quoted in the report, adding that Chicago PD intercepts at least one package of pot a day from Colorado or California.

The report cites several arguments for and against legalization that are being debated across the country, saying that “the next two to four years should help determine which side is most accurate.”

Advocates for legalizing pot have said for decades that regulating its sale and distribution would help eliminate the black market and decrease demand from states like Colorado where it’s legal to cultivate the drug.

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