Marijuana profiling: Coloradans should ditch weed before state line, says Kansas attorney

In our continued coverage of alleged profiling of cars with Colorado license plates in other states due to our marijuana laws, we shared the experiences of Westword writer Britt Chester, who was pulled over not once, but twice last week during a cross-country trip.

One of the places he was rousted was Kansas, and an attorney there says such profiling appears to be happening routinely -- so much so that he's considered buying a billboard at the state line warning people coming from Colorado to dump their pot.

According to Cal Williams, an attorney based in Colby, Kansas, the billboard would say, "'Stop and get rid of this. Don't come into Kansas with it. You can go to prison on less than an ounce.'"

Another variation on this theme is mentioned by Leonard Frieling, a Denver-based lawyer with whom Williams has brainstormed on the idea. "I imagine an electronic billboard like those speedometer signs that tell you how fast you're going -- 36 miles per hour, or whatever," he notes. "But this one would say, 'You are crossing the state line in eight minutes. Would you like to stay with us for the next five years?'"

This isn't much of an exaggeration. "As little as 25 grams can be a felony in Kansas," Williams points 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, wrist slaps aren't common in these cases, whether an individual had previously steered clear of wrongdoing. "It is presumptive prison," Williams says, "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."

As for whether profiling is taking place in Kansas, Chester's tale suggests that it is. He told us that he and a friend were halfway through Kansas in a truck with Colorado plates when they were pulled over by a state trooper for the high crime of driving in the left lane; a law there says cars should use that lane only when passing and then return to the right. But the trooper made it clear he had other possible crimes on his mind.

"He said, 'Hey, listen, a lot of people are trafficking marijuana out of Colorado. Some of it's for medical purposes, some of it's for profit. Do you mind if I look in your truck?'" Chester revealed.

The trooper's search turned up nothing more suspicious than rolling papers, so he eventually sent Chester and pal on their way without a citation. But that didn't mean he'd given up on his tactic. "He said they were keeping their eye out for Colorado plates," Chester recalled.

How often does this kind of thing happen? And how frequently does it result in troopers finding marijuana?

Continue for more about marijuana profiling in Kansas.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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

Latest Stories