Crime

Kansas potheads are getting a higher-grade high from Colorado marijuana

Kansas law enforcement officials say high-grade marijuana from Colorado has largely replaced less potent homegrown and Mexican sources of the drug in Kansas. Pot is displayed here at a Denver dispensary.
Kansas law enforcement officials say high-grade marijuana from Colorado has largely replaced less potent homegrown and Mexican sources of the drug in Kansas. Pot is displayed here at a Denver dispensary. AP

That Rocky Mountain high has drifted east into Kansas in a big way.

High-grade marijuana from Colorado has largely replaced less potent homegrown and Mexican sources of the drug in Kansas, according to the first detailed study of the effects of Colorado’s marijuana decriminalization on Kansas.

Kansas law enforcement agencies in 93 of the state’s 105 counties report finding marijuana from Colorado in their jurisdictions, according to the report from the office of Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

And last year, pot from Colorado accounted for almost 70 percent of marijuana seizures by the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Before the attorney general’s report, there was only anecdotal information about an increase in the flow of Colorado marijuana into Kansas, where possession of the drug is still illegal.

In an effort to obtain “reliable information about the true condition of the crime situation involving Colorado marijuana,” the attorney general’s office said that surveys were sent to 320 law enforcement agencies and 70 county and district attorney’s offices.

“The survey responses demonstrate that Colorado marijuana is prevalent in Kansas,” according to the report released Monday.

The report includes comments from several police departments, including Lenexa, which reported seven confirmed cases of Colorado marijuana.

“While these are just several documented cases, we are confident that the vast majority of the marijuana we are seizing is from Colorado,” Lenexa police said. “We know from training and experience that the Colorado marijuana farms can create a marijuana bud with a much higher THC content, which is preferred by the users.”

Police in Garden City said that previously, almost all of the marijuana it seized originated in Mexico.

“In the past two years, I have not heard of any marijuana suppliers obtaining marijuana from any other sources other than what originated in Colorado,” a Garden City officer noted.

Police also say that they are seeing less grown locally.

“People just don’t want to grow their own when they can drive to Colorado and purchase much stronger marijuana, edibles and concentrates.”

Seizure of products such as edibles and oils were unheard of before January 2014 when retailers in Colorado began selling recreational marijuana.

The Kansas Highway Patrol reported more than 50 such seizures in 2014 and 2015.

Police say that edibles and other products such as marijuana wax are particularly popular with high school and middle school students.

“Instead of a stinky hand rolled cigarette they can now simply ‘smoke’ cherry flavored water vapor, eat a gummy worm or a bowl of cereal,” the Augusta Police Department reported.

The state’s prosecutors reported a wide range of effects, including the reluctance of juries to convict people in marijuana cases or judges to sentence people to prison.

“It is apparent that the public tolerance of marijuana has drastically changed over the past 25 years. That has been reflected by judges’ sentencings,” according to the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office.

Juries also reflect that relaxed attitude.

“It is now very common for jurors to either acquit or to convict of lesser … marijuana offenses even when the evidence is strong or overwhelming,” the Leavenworth County attorney said.

Police in some areas don’t even bother making arrests when they encounter small amounts of the drug. Prosecutors say that many people arrested driving with small amounts are from different states, and even if they get charged, they are not likely to return for court.

“Interstate extradition on misdemeanor cases is discouraged and is expensive,” according to the Saline County attorney.

Tony Rizzo: 816-234-4435, @trizzkc

NIDA's Dr. Marilyn Huestis discusses new research, which used the most sophisticated driving simulator of its kind to mirror real-life situations. Results showed that marijuana use impairs one measure of driving performance.

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