Update: In January, we reported about surveys being sent to prosecutors and law enforcement officials in Kansas by attorney general Derek Schmidt in an effort to determine how Colorado cannabis was negatively impacting the good people of that state; our previous coverage has been incorporated into this post.
Nine months later, Schmidt has delivered the fruit of this labor — "'Legalization' of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact on Kansas," a report on view below. And a summary of the results suggests that the quality of cannabis available in the state has improved significantly thanks to Kansas's proximity to Colorado.
"The major effect of Colorado marijuana 'legalization' appears to be that high-grade marijuana from Colorado has to a large extent replaced lower-grade marijuana from Mexico and homegrown marijuana," the report states, adding, "Numerous jurisdictions also reported a significant rise in the availability of marijuana edibles and other marijuana products, such as waxes and oils, originating from Colorado."
If that sounds like a compliment to Colorado growers and manufacturers, it kind of is — not that it's meant that way. Indeed, Kansas remains among the Colorado border states whose panic over pot seems to have only increased since November 2012, when limited legal recreational marijuana sales were approved by voters here by way of Amendment 64.
Three years later, in December 2015, federal government sided with Colorado in a lawsuit filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by Oklahoma and Nebraska, which claimed that our marijuana laws should be dismantled due to residual harm being caused across state lines — and the following March, the court formally declined to hear the case. But while Kansas didn't join the suit, it's demonstrated similar antipathy toward Colorado pot.
A few months later, in a July 2013 post, we noted claims that more than half of felony pot-trafficking cases in Kansas could be traced to Colorado. And the following year, we posted about assertions that Kansas authorities were profiling rental cars with Colorado license plates.
Nonetheless, hard data about Colorado marijuana remained elusive — something Schmidt wanted to change.
In a January 4 release that consistently put the word legalize in quotes when referring to Colorado's marijuana laws, Schmidt's office noted that he had "launched a statewide project to collect information about how marijuana acquired in Colorado is entering and affecting Kansas."
Why? "Existing criminal justice information systems are inadequate to track the phenomenon because they do not collect information about the origin of marijuana encountered by Kansas law enforcement, and they cannot readily be modified to do so," the release maintained.
“There are numerous and persistent anecdotal accounts of marijuana acquired in Colorado and illegally transported into Kansas causing harm here,” Schmidt was quoted as saying. “But because of technology limits, the confirming data is elusive. Since Colorado’s experiment with legalization is affecting Kansas, we need to know more about what is actually happening here so policymakers can make informed decisions.”
As such, Schmidt's staffers distributed more than 500 surveys, with one version tailored to sheriffs and police chiefs and the other created with county and district attorneys in mind.
The former included the following eight questions:
1. How many seizures of Colorado marijuana have occurred in your jurisdiction since January 1, 2014? If you are unable to determine an exact number of seizures, please provide your best estimate.
2. How many arrests have been made in your jurisdiction since January 1, 2014, involving a person suspected of being impaired as the result of using Colorado marijuana? Again, please provide a best estimate if you are unable to provide an exact number of arrests.
3. Has Colorado marijuana been found in the possession of juveniles in your jurisdiction since January 1, 2014? If "yes," please elaborate and provide as much information as possible to assist in understanding the nature and scope of this problem.
4. Are you aware of any Colorado marijuana found in your jurisdiction since January 1, 2014, in the form of edibles, food additives or other ingestible products? If "yes," please elaborate and provide as much information as possible to assist in understanding the nature and scope of this problem.
5. Are you aware of any other Colorado marijuana by-products (such as waxes or oils) found in your jurisdiction since January 1, 2014? If "yes," please elaborate and provide as much information as possible to assist in understanding the nature and scope of this problem.
6. If you have provided any information in response to the questions above about incidents in your jurisdiction, please describe why you believe that the marijuana involved was, in fact, Colorado marijuana and did not come from another source.
7. Overall, how would you characterize the effect of Colorado marijuana "legalization" in your jurisdiction since January 1, 2014?
8. Please provide any other information you believe would assist the Office of the Attorney General in ascertaining the true condition of the Colorado marijuana situation in your jurisdiction and in Kansas.
Toward the bottom of the release about the surveys, a reference was made to the aforementioned Supreme Court case. Schmidt's office had been monitoring it carefully, the text pointed out prior to a final Schmidt quote: "We’re approaching this unprecedented situation methodically so we can assess and then, if needed, address the actual problems. We need data that shows what is actually happening in Kansas as the result of Colorado’s experiment. In my view, any response needs to be thoughtful and informed by factual data, not emotions.”
In keeping with this goal,"'Legalization' of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact on Kansas" is as dry as dry can be — but even the report's authors admit that their numbers aren't beyond reproach. The following graphic, which tracks marijuana seizures from 2013 through 2015, includes a note claiming that the "Statistics are Reliable but Not Guaranteed."
Nonetheless, this information inspires the report's authors to contend that "seizures involving marijuana believed to have originated in Colorado has risen steadily to account for roughly 70 percent of [Kansas Highway Patrol] marijuana seizures in 2015." Also cited is what's dubbed a dramatic rise in the number of pot edibles grabbed. The list of edibles found during a single January 2015 incident and "suspected to have come from Colorado" includes the following items:
• 22 1 gram containers of “Shatter Hash”
• 7 bottles of “Star Barz” THC chocolates
• 6 containers of “Loves Oven” THC candies
• 8 packages of “Full Melt” THC chocolate bars
• 1 package of THC hard candy
• 11 “Flying Aces” THC chocolate bars
• 7 containers of “Puckers” hard THC candies
• 4 bottles of “Edipure” mixed THC candy drops
• 6 bottles of “Insta High” THC powder mix
• 5 bottles of Marijuana Bud
• 36 THC chocolate bars
• 2 bottles of Peanut Brittle THC bites
• 2 boxes of THC “Awakening” mints
• 2 containers of THC lemon drops
• 4 vapor pens
The report also shares preliminary data for this year. During the first six months of 2016, the KHP is said to have "conducted 102 significant seizures of marijuana believed to have an origin of Colorado and seized over 1,259 pounds of marijuana during those incidents" — and "because the available KHP reports only track significant seizures and not seizures involving smaller amounts, the total number of seizures of suspected Colorado marijuana is likely much higher."
The highway patrol is also made "six seizures of cash with a Colorado destination. Five of those seizures involved amounts over $10,000, including one seizure of $81,000." And these sums are small compared to ones mentioned in relation to the Wichita Police Department. The WPD "reported seizing $294,700 in cash destined for Colorado, and in one case they missed seizing over $680,000 which had already been sent," the report maintains.
Despite Schmidt's insistence on hard data, the report sports a large number of what are essentially anecdotes from the surveys, supplemented by graphics like this one; the counties depicted in green are said to have reported the presence of Colorado marijuana.
The report's conclusion reads:
Overall, the survey results demonstrate that Colorado marijuana is widely present throughout Kansas. Although it is not clear that Colorado marijuana “legalization” has led to a significant overall increase in the number of marijuana crimes statewide, some jurisdictions reported an increase. One of the primary effects of Colorado marijuana “legalization” seems to be that high-grade Colorado marijuana has replaced lower-quality marijuana from Mexico and homegrown marijuana. There has also been a significant increase in the amount of marijuana edibles and products such as waxes and oils in Kansas, which raises serious concerns, particularly with respect to juveniles.
At this writing, Schmidt has given little indication what he plans to do next in regard to Colorado marijuana. The U.S. Supreme Court's disinterest in the lawsuit filed by Oklahoma and Nebraska suggests that duplicating their approach would be futile, and previous attempts to get Colorado to pay cross-border law enforcement costs related to marijuana — a concept that's been floated in Nebraska — have gone nowhere. Nonetheless, the tension between Kansas and Colorado over marijuana seems to be growing, not lessening, nearly four years after the passage of Amendment 64.
Here's the Schmidt report:
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.