Wyoming and Marijuana Profiling: Pot Busts May Be Up, But Not Everywhere

Over the past few years, we've written numerous posts about claims of pot profiling — drivers in cars with Colorado license plates who say they were pulled over in other states for incredibly minor or nonexistent infractions as a pretext to search the vehicle for cannabis.

Wyoming is among the places where readers have told us they were pot-profiled.

But a fine new report in the Caspar Star-Tribune notes that it's difficult to tell how much marijuana arrests have gone up or down in the state and the degree to which Colorado's legalization of limited recreational cannabis sales has impacted the situation, if at all.

Indeed, one Wyoming county actually saw a recent decrease in such arrests.

A late April Star-Tribune piece cited statistics from the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police showing that alcohol arrests were down, but those involving drugs had gone up by 37 percent over a two-year span.

Marijuana arrests were said to have accounted for 8 percent of total arrests.

However, the Star-Tribune points out that it's impossible to know for certain if this number constitutes a rise, since marijuana stats hadn't been pulled out previously.

Likewise, the data pertaining to Colorado appears to be largely anecdotal. The Wyoming State Patrol says about a quarter of marijuana seized in felony cases came from Colorado, but that's based on troopers simply asking arrestees where they got it.

And then there's the situation in Sweetwater County, which shares a border with the northwest corner of Colorado. For the past three years, Sheriff Mike Lowell tells the Star-Tribune, the marijuana bust total in Sweetwater has held fairly steady, at around 36 cases per annum — and there was an 18 percent dip in marijuana busts from 2013 to 2014.

Does this suggest that the marijuana problem in neighboring states is only as big as authorities there decide to make it?

Perhaps — but other officials in Wyoming continue to be plenty concerned about it.

In January, as we've reported, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead announced that his state wouldn't be joining in a lawsuit filed against Colorado by Oklahoma and Nebraska over marijuana laws here. But he hinted that he wasn't opposed to taking legal action against the entity truly responsible for the current situation: the feds.

"My position, if we could get there, wouldn't be to sue the state of Colorado," he was quoted as saying. "It would be to sue the federal government."

Look below to see a report from the Wyoming Highway Patrol about arrests in 2014. While its title doesn't mention marijuana, statistics about pot and other substances are included for all of the counties in the state.

Alcohol and Crime in Wyoming 2014

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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

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