Legalized Marijuana Ignites a Pot-Smuggling Crisis in the Great Plains

The legal weed business in Colorado is flourishing, with June pulling down sales of $24.7 million, the biggest month since legalization took hold in January. The state took in nearly $24 million in pot-generated revenue just through the month of May, according to the New York Times. 

But, there's a dark side to Colorado's success, which features hordes of tourists inundating the state to purchase everything from the weed itself to marijuana-infused treats and beauty products.

In fact, it is the out-of-state visitors that are causing the rumpus – as they take cannabis products on the road with them, beyond the state borders of Colorado.

A homegrown traffic problem
Troubles are arising not from the fact that pot is legal in Colorado, but that it is still considered contraband in neighboring states, like Kansas and Nebraska. Complicating matters further is that possessing and growing marijuana is still a federal crime.

Though the U.S. Justice Department has taken a relaxed stance toward the legalization efforts of states like Colorado, it is still illegal to take the drug out of the state. For law enforcement in Kansas, it has been a conundrum: though the Sheriff's office has little desire to arrest people carrying legal weed out of Colorado, both federal and Kansas state law hold that the substance is illegal.

In a recent interview, Sheriff Cody Beeson of Cheyenne County, Kansas, related how accidents and routine traffic stops often produce evidence of cannabis being transported out of Colorado, an issue that is increasing law enforcement costs in his county. Often, his staff has to spend time on pot-trafficking issues, neglecting other duties. The Sheriff of Goodland, Kansas, worries that the surge in weed-smuggling arrests will deplete his budget quickly this year, since each inmate costs the county $45 for each day spent in a jail cell.

A growing black market troubles Colorado's neighbors
Neighboring states like Nebraska also worry about a burgeoning black market in Colorado weed, a situation that legalization was supposed to extinguish.

Even within the state of Colorado, it still exists, primarily due to the higher prices being charged for the legal cannabis. The only reason that the black market has suffered within the state, says a dealer interviewed by CBS4 in Colorado Springs, is because almost anyone can obtain a medical marijuana card – if they really want to.

Outside of the state, of course, things are different. The stellar quality of the weed sold in Colorado has gained a reputation, and the federally funded Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program has tracked the product to 40 other U.S. states.

No reprieve in sight
With the mish-mash of marijuana laws currently in force, 76% of Americans live in a state that has at least some level of legal tolerance for marijuana, and it seems like legalizing the drug at the federal level would bring instant relief to those states forced to expend taxpayers' money chasing smugglers of recreational pot. Even the director of the RMHIDTA expressed frustration with the lack of consistency in the laws regarding cannabis. 

But the agonizingly slow pace of marijuana legalization seems certain to plod on, with Washington state beginning its own recreational industry this summer. Perhaps states will legalize pot as a sort of self-defense measure, finally realizing that legalization is the only sure-fire way to stop spending money fighting weed – and, like Colorado, to begin making money by embracing it. 

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Read/Post Comments (29) | Recommend This Article (35)

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  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 3:32 PM, allan1 wrote:

    Legalize all 50 states so we all have jobs .

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 3:32 PM, JohnofColorado wrote:

    How many have died? None. No crises there. How many states bordering Colorado are considering legalizing it at least for medical reasons, and have even submitted bills for legislation? All of them. Sorry Motley, no crises here at all. In fact this situation was talked about even before it became law. In another decade, we will look back and laugh at all this craziness and chuckle, and be sad.

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 3:42 PM, nicholas8887 wrote:

    If the sheriff of Goodland, Kansas is this concerned with their budget being depleted due to weed-smuggling arrests, then why not just ignore the weed and focus on things that are more important? You know, like finding fugitives, illegal aliens, and people who make America's Most Wanted list. That would make this country safer than if they spent all day harassing people who happen to have some harmless reefer on them.

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 4:07 PM, sammy2 wrote:

    Mind-altering substances have been indigenous to human culture always, including the most primitive.

    When coffee and tea first appeared, there was shock and alarm--from those objecting to such animadversions as "sinful" or "unnatural" or "destructive of God's plan for man".

    So it goes. Always of course whenever, and wherever, human proclivities or temptations obtain, the perennial question is: "where to draw the line?"

    Alcohol (still forbidden under Muslim law) was once regarded in the U S as destructive of moral fiber as well as ruinous to health, and the institution of prohibition in the 1930's was an attempt at eradication. Didn't work, did it?

    Doesn't work in Muslim countries either. When those folks get within sniffing distance of any alcohol purveyance--then it's "Katie bar the door," for an avalanche approaches.

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 4:13 PM, JBusher wrote:

    End of the Jury System - End of the protection of life, liberty, and property.

    David Hardy 'Juror Testimony' transcript “he felt like...the jury was on one big jurors drank alcohol....Hardy stated that on several occasions he observed two jurors having one or two mixed drinks during the lunch recess, and one other juror, who was also the foreperson, having a liter of wine...three other jurors smoked marijuana quite regularly during the trial. Moreover, Hardy stated that during the trail he observed one juror ingest cocaine five times and another juror ingest cocaine two or three times. One juror sold a quarter pound of marijuana to another juror during the trial, and took marijuana, cocaine, and drug paraphernalia into the courthouse. Hardy noted that some of the jurors were falling asleep during trial, and that one of the jurors described himself to Hardy as 'flying'. (History of the Common Law, page 526)

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 4:30 PM, RickPerry wrote:

    This is all BS. Many states have long had medical marijuana, even New Mexico. It doesn't take much to meet someone in these states who has a medical marijuana card; these people can have up to 24 ounces at a time. This has been plenty to keep the pot dealers in the plains states supplied. Perhaps things have kicked up a bit from the recent legalization, but to claim it has become a big problem is PROPAGANDA.

    In the US today one cannot believe much in our 'news' media.

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 4:36 PM, CalWayback wrote:

    Give High Times Magazine credit. They predicted in the late 1970's pot would be legalized by the states. Eat, drink and be merry. Now you can smoke, cook and wash your hair in pot. Next up legalization of other street drugs. See you on the Judgment Day.

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 4:42 PM, rockyman63 wrote:

    if sheriff beeson has so little desire to arrest pot people, then why do your officers ask 100% of the people they stop if they can search?

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 4:45 PM, sparkybog wrote:

    I’m not convinced of a cannabis problem or a crisis in the Mid-West. These “Corn States” are known for their own special kind of contraband herbs exported to the rest of the US for decades. I see a lot of “bootleg” herb from KS/MO going to CO, to help keep up with the “legal” recreational demand in CO. Look at all the tax money CO gets off sale of the fruits harvested from KS and MO soil…haha CO doesn’t have to pay to incarcerate non-violent cannabis “criminals”…hahaha. When CO farmers join the KY farmers and grow and export industrial hemp, then this author can pen an accurate article on a “Cannabis Crisis in Cotton States”

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 5:02 PM, drax7 wrote:

    All marijuana is non medical, that's just a fancy term to give it acceptability. Medical liquor and beer would be equally self important .

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 5:16 PM, igneous11 wrote:

    "The stellar quality of the weed sold in Colorado has gained a reputation..." Love it. That's some pretty stellar-looking bud in the picture too. So, if you are driving bud around, make sure all your lights work and your tabs are current. The cops are overworked and don't need more cases.

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 5:22 PM, harddriver7 wrote:

    well dumb ass legalize it stupid and then you wont be wasting money

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 5:27 PM, WillieM wrote:

    Those silly Cornhuskers ...

    Spending $45 a day to incarcerate a pot smoker who's causing nobody any harm (not even themselves in any real sense) ...

    Just so the rich eff'rs who build and run prisons FOR PROFIT can be even richer ...

    Is this a great country or what ...?

    What ...?

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 5:44 PM, blzr wrote:

    This is a crisis, but arms smuggling for $ to people who will use them against our own people, isn't?

    Parents on a daily basis get news how their child has been disabled or killed by these same weapons!

    Now this is a Crisis!

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 5:49 PM, Cheechio123 wrote:

    I think this is a problem throughout the country on a myriad of legislation not just pot legalization...

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 7:30 PM, ariveria wrote:

    bs colorado strictly limits the amount of pot an out of state person can purchase.

    that is not enough pot to make it possible to smuggle pot out of colorado for anything but personal use.

    if it costs the sheriff $45 a day to have somebody in prison it exceeds the amount of pot the person has.

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 7:52 PM, bendriver wrote:

    "The legal weed business in Colorado is flourishing, with June pulling down sales of $24.7 million, the biggest month since legalization took hold in January. The state took in nearly $24 million in pot-generated revenue just through the month of May, according to the New York Times. "

    I wonder how fast those numbers would go down if it were legal in all 50 states...Same could be said Illinois and Indiana...Every state that boarders Illinois has fireworks legal and every year Indiana boasts how much money they make from Illinois residence.

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 9:27 PM, Vallinor wrote:

    I support a State's right to legalize or not as their constituents vote. That being said, it's in the best interest and responsibility the States that DO legalize to patrol their borders with checkpoints.

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 9:39 PM, philthyphil wrote:

    You know what makes weed dangerous...the fact that its ILLEGAL. No other aspect of it is any near as dangerous as ALCOHOL. Make it legal and get the underground/criminal element out of the equation. Create legitimate jobs, take in massive tax revenue, win win! Pretty damn simple.

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2014, at 9:59 PM, tkeracer619 wrote:


    I am sorry but we are not going to patrol our boarders for people possessing a legal substance. That is for your police and taxes to deal with. Sorry but it is what it is. You are the ones making it illegal, pay to enforce that law.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2014, at 2:29 AM, alaskanmala63 wrote:

    This is Suppose to Be the United States of America, so it should be Legal everywhere .. The Federal Government Grows it at the University of Mississippi , They Know It has Benefits, they have a Patent on it..

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2014, at 2:52 AM, buzzbuzz420 wrote:

    i thought this article said crisis, what was the problem again? i basically just want to point out, because regardless if you support legalization or not, i want to correct an important mistake this article makes.


    money spent in Colorado is money not spent in mexico on cartels who like to torture, murder, rape, mutilate, decapitate and all those other cruel and disgusting things they do to people. its really simple actually, boycott cartels and gang members, shop in Colorado at legitimate businesses that follow the law and are compliant and non violent. some estimates for cartel profits on marijuana alone is over 30 billion PER YEAR.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2014, at 11:27 AM, Msfit wrote:

    There are NO LESS than 7 patents at the U.S. Patent office as we speak from drug companies who have realized some of the medical benefits from cannabinoids. Once drug companies get involved, it will change some of the game. And the rich get richer.....

    They will take away the part of the plant that gets you high (THC) and keep the medicinal properties.

    Once they get involved,(with govt in their pocket) I imagine that it will be a game changer IN SOME WAY.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2014, at 11:33 AM, IPH wrote:

    Colorado has laws against carrying marijuana across state lines. There are laws against carrying alcohol and tobacco across state lines. For all the marijuana enthusiast that want marijuana to be regulated like tobacco, and alcohol, prosecuting the law breakers is a part of what you wanted.

    The federal DOJ needs to provide for extradition of the lawbreakers back to Colorado. Colorado is reaping the benefit of the income, The cost of prosecuting people breaking their laws is a part of where the funds should be spent. The alternative is for Colorado to cease all sales to people from out of state. This is Colorado's responsibility.

    Prevention of and ending the black market is what a responsible advocate for marijuana legalization stood for when they fought for legalization. It is time you smokers walk the talk, and quit belly aching.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2014, at 11:40 AM, Membranen wrote:

    Alcohol is dangerous if you use to much

    Smoking is dangerous if you use to much

    Medicines is dangerous if you use to much

    Marijuana is dangerous only if you use to much


    When can we get : legalisation? You must agree this is stupid to forbid that! This can be a whole new industry for every country who like to use marijuna not only for the CBD we can find in Hemp but for all we can made with marijuana and... that means work for a lot of people, that means money for this people and the State. What are they waiting for?

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2014, at 11:53 AM, tahiti5000 wrote:

    Stop wasting law enforcement resources on cannibis and focus on preventing violent crime instead.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2014, at 12:52 PM, steelcash wrote:

    The only problem is that some people in this country have access to the most useful plant in the world, and some don't. We have a plant that has never killed anyone, heals the sick, and makes people peaceful and happy. And yet it remains illegal in over half the country. These problems mentioned in this piece stem from idiocy, ignorance, and prohibition. The plant has never been the problem. The problem is the laws that govern this amazing plant. It never should have been illegal in the first place.

  • Report this Comment On August 19, 2014, at 3:15 AM, RxPro wrote:

    Everyone needs a drug to abuse these days, so of course if they hear the weed from Co is "extra-dank" they will try to get access to it.

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2015, at 2:51 PM, BOJAX wrote:

    A year after the above article and with a few more states going legal for recreational cannabis, the stress goes on. Perhaps bordering states will wake up and go legal as Colorado has.

    That way they can tax the heck out of the industry and use the gains to beef up their law enforcement budgets. Plus they'll save even more enforcement money once their officers stop chasing users of a blasted weed and get down to more serious business.

    Then the industry can flourish and create stock opportunities which may enrich us all. :-)

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