Colorado’s legalization of marijuana has changed the way the drug is used in Kansas, AG reports

In this Jan. 23, 2015, file photo, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt talks to lawmakers at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. (Thad Allton/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP, File)

Since Colorado legalized both recreational and medicinal marijuana in 2014, the drug has made its way into virtually every corner of Kansas, according to a report from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

The report, published Monday, illustrates several ways Colorado’s legalization of marijuana has affected its neighbor to the east, where marijuana remains illegal.

One notable effect from the legalization is a stark increase in the number of marijuana-laced edibles in Kansas — “a phenomenon rarely encountered here before the Colorado experiment,” the report says.

Local law enforcement agencies are also reporting an increase in marijuana wax, which is a potent form of hash oil that is usually smoked.

Though the state’s drug landscape has changed, the report says it is not clear that Colorado’s legalization of marijuana has led to an overall increase in the number of Kansas’ marijuana cases. In fact, the report found that the amount of marijuana seized by the Kansas Highway Patrol has declined since Colorado made the drug legal to buy in 2014. The Highway Patrol seized 3,769 pounds of marijuana in 2015, down from 6,187 pounds in 2013. The number of seizures declined from 243 in 2013 to 216 in 2015. In 2014, the first year the drug was legal to purchase in Colorado, the number of seizures was at 247 and about 3,500 pounds, the report said.

What did change, however, is that when marijuana was seized in Kansas in 2015, it was more likely to be from Colorado. The Highway Patrol date estimated 48 percent of all the marijuana seized by the agency came from Colorado, up from 18 percent in 2013.

The report says 320 law enforcement agencies and 70 prosecutors’ offices, including those in Douglas County, have provided information to Schmidt’s office since December 2015, regarding marijuana issues.

In a survey from Schmidt’s office, the Lawrence Police Department, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the University of Kansas’ Public Safety Office reported a total of 39 seizures of Colorado marijuana in 2015.

“Our drug unit investigators report a dramatic increase in Marijuana from Colorado in our jurisdiction since the legalization of marijuana in Colorado,” the Lawrence Police Department said in the survey.

Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson was not available to comment on this story.

Higher quality marijuana from Colorado has come to replace less potent marijuana, typically from Mexico, as well as home-grown marijuana, the report says.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said in Schmidt’s survey that marijuana from Colorado has a “quick turn around time for re-supply and re-sale.”

While many people perceive marijuana to be a problem with college students, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office wrote in Schmidt’s survey that use of the drug also extends heavily to high school and middle school students as well.

In addition, the lucrative nature of distributing Colorado marijuana “appears to be fueling violence,” the report says.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office reported an increase in home-invasion robberies where criminals forcefully steal drug money stemming from Colorado marijuana.

“These robberies have resulted in shootings and danger to public safety,” the office said in Schmidt’s survey.

Once the drug cases head to court, there are additional challenges, the report says.

Some districts have become so overwhelmed with crimes involving small amounts of marijuana that the drug is sometimes confiscated “without issuing a citation,” the report says.

Prosecutors are also having a more difficult time distinguishing between possession cases and distribution cases, as well as having trouble pressing charges against out-of-state defendants, the report says.

In addition, during jury selection, potential jurors are “now more likely to express acceptance of marijuana use and to state an opinion that marijuana should be legalized,” the report says.