Imagine this. You live just barely on the Kansas side of the Kansas-Colorado border and you’re craving some edibles, so you decide to head across the state border where they’re legal. You go to a licensed dispensary and pay for your product, then decided to back home before eating because you don’t want to drive under the influence.
Everything is going great until you get back into Kansas and a cop suddenly flashes his lights behind you. What’s going on? You pull over and ask the officer what the trouble is and he says you have a taillight out. This surprises you, but you’re both friendly and cordial about it – no big deal, right? And then he notices your product. Before you even understand what’s really going on, you’re in the back of a squad car in handcuffs facing drug trafficking charges.
It’s been a little more than a year since Colorado passed their famous decision to legalize marijuana for recreational use. But like Vegas, what happens in Colorado must stay in Colorado, and those who bring pot across the borders can get into bigtime trouble.
The neighboring states don’t share Colorado’s liberal attitude towards weed. Shortly after recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado, both Oklahoma and Nebraska sued the Colorado government to roll-back their legalization. Police from both states claim law enforcement can’t keep up with the marijuana flowing across the border from our state.
Though Colorado shows no sign of slowing down its production and distribution, neighboring states are ramping up security at their own borders. A quick glance at a map of marijuana policies from state to state makes it clear that Colorado’s neighbors don’t share Coloradans’ enthusiasm for the plant. Travelers are likely to see more border checkpoints, and residents of neighboring states will be subject to increased inspection of shipping containers and storage units.
One of the primary concerns of the neighboring states is that drug traffickers will bring pot into their state and beyond. While it’s certainly true that drug traffickers have taken advantage of legalization, a crackdown by the police has turned up far less evidence than some state law enforcement representatives imply.
Somewhat similar to the signs at bars reminding patrons to keep alcoholic drinks on the premises, Colorado dispensaries often feature signs reminding buyers not to take the drug across state lines. But residents travelling with a large enough stash could face trafficking if they attempt to travel with marijuana, or simply forget they have it in their vehicle.
It’s not just users who are being targeted at border crackdowns, either. Reports have surfaced of travelers being detained for hours while police conduct extensive searches of their vehicle. “The story runs the same: They are detained for two hours while the police dismantle their vehicles,” a marijuana activist from Denver told USA Today. “They find nothing and later admit it was because they’re from Colorado.”
Many state authorities have claimed that they are not doing anything different in response to Colorado’s marijuana policies. But other police departments have been extremely vocal in their disdain towards our state.
Sheriff John Jenson of Nebraska’s Cheyenne Police Department is a vocal critic of Colorado’s drug laws—according to a 2014 report from the LA Times, he was so angry with the state itself he didn’t set foot in Colorado for two years. “They passed a law and didn’t give a second thought to how it would impact surrounding states,” Jenson told the Times. “If they want Colorado to be the High State and live up to all of those John Denver songs, they can keep it in their four walls. I don’t need Colorado’s problems in Nebraska.”
Colorado residents should also be wary of crossing into Kansas with marijuana on their person. In mid-2013, some reports indicated that as many as half of all felony cases in the state that year were being brought against Colorado residents who were carrying marijuana.
In Kansas, possession of an amount as small as 25 grams can land you in prison for several years. That’s slightly less than an ounce. Thus, a perfectly legal amount of marijuana in Colorado equals a felony charge in Kansas.
With anti-legalization authorities like Sheriff Jensen on high alert and draconian drug laws in Kansas, it should come as no surprise that marijuana related arrests have seen extreme spikes in recent years. Analysis by the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group based in Colorado, suggests that interdictions increased from roughly 300 cases to about 1,500 in 2014. But authorities are finding only about a third more marijuana, the group claims.
Mason Tvert, the communications director for the group, told Al Jazeera that, “Cops don’t like that Colorado passed this law, so they’re trying to make the case that marijuana is flooding in.”
Colorado residents busted in other states are subject to the laws of the state in which they are arrested. But even within our borders, residents can still be charged with a host of marijuana-related crimes. Despite marijuana’s legal status, it is still illegal to possess more than an ounce on your person or cultivate more than six plants in your home.
If you’ve been charged with a marijuana-related offense, do not assume the prosecutors will go easy on you. Despite marijuana’s legal status here, many users and sellers still face incarceration, fines, and criminal records. Don’t play games with your future and freedom – get a knowledgeable drug crimes lawyer on your side as soon as possible.