WICHITA, Kan. — Early results from a survey of law enforcement agencies conducted by the Kansas attorney general suggest legal Colorado marijuana is having a big impact on Kansas, but it may not be all negative.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt received responses from 390 Kansas law enforcement agencies and district attorneys indicating that less marijuana is being confiscated, but it’s much higher in potency than pot smuggled in from Mexico.
Survey results also show that the legal system has been swept by changing attitudes about marijuana, with some jurisdictions no longer enforcing pot laws much. When they do they’re finding it tough to win convictions, The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/2e22SZt) reported.
“The criminal justice system is moving in the direction of what appears to be changes in public attitude,” Schmidt said. “Obviously not moving as far as some people would like, but there is obviously an evolution or a change, and this showed that it has reached the enforcement level as well.”
Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington have legalized marijuana. California, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will vote on marijuana legalization this fall.
Law enforcement needs to use discretion and consider factors such as cost, Schmidt said, but also needs to be consistent.
But several Kansas agencies said it’s difficult to have a consistent legal response when some of the people they rely on to enforce the laws want to return to an era of stricter enforcement, while others are preparing for future legalization.
“Our local deputies and sheriff tell me they stop at least five cars a day with personal-use marijuana inside and absolutely refuse to issue a citation or report for it,” according to the Clark County prosecutor’s office. “They simply confiscate it and send them on their way.”
Some juries are refusing to hand down marijuana convictions. Labette County’s prosecutor said several potential jurors have stated during jury selection in non-marijuana cases that they think pot should be legal.
Financial considerations are coming into play for jurisdictions such as Ellis County, where the prosecutor’s office is getting so many drug cases that the jail is running well over capacity.
“The ongoing joke is that the highway patrol only stops every third car, eastbound,” the office wrote.
About 75 percent of the state’s counties and towns reported seizing Colorado marijuana fewer than five times between 2014 and 2015, with most small cities and counties not seeing any at all.
Schmidt said he also is concerned about the growing popularity of edibles, which are food products made with marijuana or infused with marijuana oils.
The Kansas Highway Patrol reported its seizure of marijuana edibles increased from zero in 2013 to more than 30 in 2015. Confiscated items have included chocolates and other candies, powder mix, hot sauce — even lip balm.
“Instead of a stinky hand-rolled cigarette,” the Augusta Department of Public Safety said, “they now can simply smoke cherry flavored water vapor, eat a gummy worm, or a bowl of cereal.”
Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com