Marijuana: More than half of felony pot trafficking cases in Kansas from Colorado

Earlier this year, as part of our continuing coverage about the profiling of Colorado cars in other states due to our marijuana laws, we spoke to an attorney who suggested that Colorado drivers ditch their weed before the Kansas state line because of the latter's strict policies.

Sounds like a good idea. A new report about marijuana trafficking in Kansas reveals that more than half the felony cases brought during the first five months of this year involve people (and cannabis) from Colorado.

As he told us in March, Cal Williams, an attorney based in Colby, Kansas, thinks a lot of trouble could be avoided if pot-related billboards were placed at the Colorado-Kansas state line. His preferred message would be: "Stop and get rid of this. Don't come into Kansas with it. You can go to prison on less than an ounce.

"As little as 25 grams can be a felony in Kansas," he pointed out. "There's a range from 25 grams to 450 grams, and even for someone with no record, a conviction could carry 46 to 51 months in a penitentiary."

Moreover, he added, wrist slaps aren't common even in cases of an individual who'd previously steered clear of wrongdoing: "It is presumptive prison, with 49 months being the middle range; that's likely what it would be. And based on the fact that an ounce is 28.35 grams, less than an ounce is enough to send you to prison."

This cautionary tale was reinforced by the story of Westword contributor Britt Chester, who was pulled over not once but twice while traveling cross country earlier this year, including once in Kansas.

In that instance, Chester was flagged down by a state trooper for the crime of driving in the left lane when not passing someone -- a minor infraction in Kansas even for folks (like Chester) who aren't speeding. Knowing that he had no marijuana in his truck, Chester allowed the trooper to search the vehicle, and he did so politely.

Afterward, Chester said, the trooper conceded that he and his brethren are "keeping their eye out for Colorado plates" on the chance that those behind the wheel are transporting marijuana.

This anecdote dovetails nicely with an Associated Press article that appeared in the Kansas City Star.

Not too many years ago, the piece notes, 70 percent of the marijuana seized the Kansas State Patrol was "pressed" pot from Mexico, popularly known as "brick weed." These days, however, what's referred to as "traditional marijuana" makes up only about 15 percent of the cannabis seized by the KSP, while the remainder is "medical-grade" material, with a huge chunk of that traceable to Colorado.

Here's an excerpt from the report:

The [Kansas State Patrol] seized 2,654 pounds and arrested 187 people during the first five months of this year. A KHP analysis of those 133 felony pot trafficking cases in early 2013 showed 79 seizures were of Colorado marijuana, with California weed next in 35 incidents.
Moreover, as we've reported, carrying marijuana for medical purposes is not a defense in Kansas, as established by a Kansas Supreme Court ruling in March against Colorado MMJ patient Troy James Cooper.

Will these factors dissuade people from carrying Colorado marijuana into Kansas, whether it was legally obtained or not? Presumably, Kansas law enforcers are betting it won't.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana profiling: Coloradans should ditch weed before state line, says Kansas attorney."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts