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Drug problems increase after pot legalization, police say

10:43 PM, Feb 5, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - Some elected officials in nearby states blame Colorado for an increase in marijuana trafficking and want Colorado to foot the bill for prosecuting marijuana crimes in their states.

Read Jace Larson's tweets about how he covered this story.

"I think it's a great idea. We're not the ones causing the problem but we are enforcing the problem," Cheyenne County, Nebraska Sheriff John Jenson told 9Wants to Know. "They would like to make legislation to where we can bill these expenses back to Colorado."

Law enforcement in states such as Kansas, Wyoming and Nebraska says marijuana drug trafficking from Colorado grew when medical marijuana dispensaries opened a few years ago.

Law enforcement predicts the numbers of marijuana busts outside of Colorado will grow now that Amendment 64 legalized recreational marijuana. Recreational marijuana is only legal in the states of Colorado and Washington.

"Marijuana is coming in from Colorado a lot more than what people want to admit," Jenson said. "We're positive we're going to see another increase, but the law is too new for us to get an idea of how bad it's going to be for us."

"Colorado has simply become the source state in the Rocky Mountain region," Lt. Ernie Martinez of the Colorado Drug Investigator's Association said.

"It's very easy for people to go to Colorado and buy it. That's what they are doing now," Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Mark Overman said. "Marijuana has always been a problem. The difference today is that the marijuana is better quality and it is much more prevalent coming out of Colorado."

DENVER POLICE SEE PROBLEM TOO

Denver Police say they are seeing drug dealers willing to sell large amounts of pot to people who want to traffic it out of Colorado.

"It's like the wild, wild West," Denver Police marijuana task force Sgt. Andrew Howard told 9NEWS.

9Wants to Know rode along, exclusively, with Howard's team for several days as they set up buys from illegal Colorado marijuana dealers.

On one deal, an undercover officer asked a dealer if he has a limit to the amount of pot he could provide. The undercover officer told the dealer she wanted to take marijuana to Wyoming.

"Oh I don't have a limit," Kevin Lei responded.

After buying marijuana from him several times police arrested Lei Jan. 17 as he sold several pounds of pot to an undercover officer.

"You do what you have to do," Lei told 9Wants to Know's Jace Larson after his arrest.

Police raided the suspected home of Lei's supplier and arrested Andrew Holland at his home near West 32nd Avenue and Teller Street.

Holland declined to talk to 9NEWS.

Marijuana crimes in Denver have increased since 2009, according to data from the Denver Police Department.

There were 38 marijuana related crimes in 2009, 64 in 2010, 100 in 2011 and 132 in 2012.

PRO-MARIJUANA GROUPS DISAGREE

"Law enforcement has been overly worried about marijuana for 80 years," Sensible Colorado Executive Director Brian Vicente said. "Law enforcement can point to a couple dozen incidents of people shipping marijuana outside of the state in the 12 years we've had medical marijuana."

When the regulatory structure of Amendment 64 is put into place, Vicente says marijuana trafficking will be greatly reduced.

"We are moving from a black market to a regulated market. There are going to be some criminal actors and that's where law enforcement can focus their resources," he said. "The vast majority of people who use marijuana in this state are acting in full compliance of the law."

Have a comment or tip for investigative reporter Jace Larson? Call him at 303-871-1432 or e-mail him
jace.larson@9news.com

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