Drug checkpoint on U.S. 36 to Boulder nabs nearly a pound of marijuana

Last August, we told you about a drug enforcement checkpoint on I-25 by the Westminster Police Department. This narcotics-centric variation on DUI checkpoints moved to a new location Tuesday night: U.S. Highway 36 to Boulder. And it spawned a felony arrest, for possession of nearly a pound's worth of marijuana.

As we reported last summer, the first drug checkpoint, conducted near the 144th Avenue exit on I-25, resulted in 32 vehicles being stopped over a five-hour period, with five summonses being dispensed -- four for driving with a license that had been restrained or suspended, and one related to possession of marijuana by someone with an expired patient-registry card.

Investigator Trevor Materasso, spokesman for the Westminster Police, reveals that another similar operation was conducted on I-25 some time back -- and while he doesn't have details about it at his fingertips, he shares info about this week's efforts on the Boulder-bound lanes of Highway 36 near Church Ranch Boulevard. "According to him, "23 traffic contacts were made" between 7 p.m. and just past midnight. "There were three traffic citations and one adult male was arrested for possession of marijuana." The weed's weight was 15.82 ounces, "which in this state would be a felony charge," he notes.

Was there any assertion that the marijuana was for medical use? Was the arrestee a patient?

"We're restricted in releasing information as to whether or not the individual has a card," Materasso responds. "That's privileged information because of medical regulations and HIPPA," the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. "But the state says the carrier of a medical marijuana card is only authorized or allowed two ounces or less, and he had nearly a pound. So it would exceed the limit." Although the WPD's traffic division runs the operation, the case of the man busted for marijuana possession will be transferred to a narcotics officer.

According to Materasso, "we can't talk in specific detail about our operational plan. But the training our officers receive, and the guidelines they follow, are based on federal law enforcement training." Moreover, he continues, "while we're focusing on the use of the interstate system to move quantities of drugs not just through the Denver metro area, but through Colorado, we're also addressing a public-safety concern. Drug trafficking has connections to a substantial amount of other criminal activity that takes place, including auto theft, assault and other types of crimes. So drug interdiction not only removes drugs from the community, but it also helps with other crimes associative of drug trafficking."

At this point, there's no regular schedule for more drug checkpoints, which are still being analyzed from several angles, Materasso says. In his view, "I don't think law enforcement can determine the effectiveness of a resource or tool by simply using it a few times."

He points to DUI checkpoints, whose locations are often changed based on the number of drunk drivers found to use a certain road and the times when they commonly travel. Regarding drug checkpoints, "we've only used two locations so far: I-25 and the Boulder turnpike. So we need to determine the most effective way to utilize this tool, as well as the most effective locations."

In other words, don't expect Tuesday's drug checkpoint to be the last one conducted by the Westminster Police Department.

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More from our News archive: "Drug enforcement checkpoint on I-25: Five tickets, two arrests out of 32 stops."

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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.
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