Some Western Kansas counties feeling brunt of Colorado pot laws

When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, lawmakers there said it would bring millions of tax dollars to the state, and they were right.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced just from marijuana sales the state could make almost $134 million dollars in the next fiscal year, the Denver Post reports.

But could Colorado laws indirectly cost some Kansans?

In a special report, one sheriff tells KSNT News it certainly has but other government officials say it is too early to tell:

Even before the first recreational marijuana dispensaries opened across the state line two months ago, Wallace County Sheriff Larry Townsend says his small department has stopped more people coming into Kansas with pot.  It is not hard to tell the drugs are American grown he said, “It’s packaged to be appealing to the consumer.”

With booming business next door, Townsend says Kansas tax payers foot the bill when more people are caught with the drug because of the increased cost to operate jails, and a higher case load in local courtrooms.

“Our arrest rate on Colorado marijuana was up over 100 percent last year, this year alone we’re up between 35 and 40 just for the first two months of the year,” said Townsend.

Not only has the amount changed, Townsend and Colby-based Defense Attorney Cal Williams agree the face of this crime is changing.

“It’s smaller amounts more often and it’s just everyday run of the mill folks,” said Williams.

More people with less pot doesn’t change the law. The Sheriff wonders if his budget can handle the rising cost of stopping drugs coming into his county.  “I work off a budget that I put together a year in advance and our jail bill really increased this year out here.”

As cops and courtrooms in western Kansas get busier, a spokesman for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation in Topeka told KSNT News there is no way to positively pin drugs found in the state as coming from Colorado.   As for hard numbers on traffic stops and other cases involving marijuana since Colorado changed the law, the same spokesman said the KBI won’t know until the end of the year when agencies submit their year end crime stats.

“I started out telling someone I didn’t think it had blossomed just yet since Colorado did what it did but after recounting, I can tell you it has,” said Williams.

“It’s going to hurt us but you know my job is to protect the people of this county and I’m going to do that, whatever that takes, we’re going to do it,” explained Townsend.

A spokesman for the Kansas Highway Patrol said troopers haven’t changed the way they patrol in western Kansas, or any part of the state for that matter.

In October, the “ilver Haired Legislature, a caucus of lawmakers 65 and older, passed a resolution encouraging the full legislature to legalize medical marijuana but a bill in the Senate that would do so hasn’t been assigned a hearing yet.


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