TOPEKA – (January 4, 2016) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has launched a statewide project to collect information about how marijuana acquired in Colorado is entering and affecting Kansas.
Since Colorado’s widely publicized decision more than three years ago to “legalize” acquisition and possession of small amounts of marijuana under its state law, Kansas law enforcement agencies have consistently reported encounters in Kansas involving marijuana acquired in Colorado. 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.
“There are numerous and persistent anecdotal accounts of marijuana acquired in Colorado and illegally transported into Kansas causing harm here,” Schmidt said. “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.”
Under the authority of K.S.A. 21-2504(a), which allows the attorney general to gather statistics about potential crimes and circumstances surrounding them, Schmidt has sent a request for information to all county and district attorneys, sheriffs and chiefs of police throughout the state surveying them about their experience with Colorado marijuana in their jurisdictions. More than 500 surveys were distributed last week.
Schmidt said when survey responses are received and compiled later this spring, he will make them publicly available so the data can be evaluated by the public, by law enforcement officials and by policymakers. A copy of the survey distributed to county and district attorneys is available at http://go.usa.gov/c5uRe, and a copy of the survey distributed to sheriffs and police chiefs is available at http://go.usa.gov/c5umV .
Anecdotal reports of the types of problems Kansas law enforcement has encountered with marijuana brought from Colorado include: People driving under the influence of Colorado marijuana, distribution in Kansas of edible food products laced with marijuana from Colorado, people who “bundle” marijuana acquired in Colorado into larger amounts and transport it into Kansas for illicit resale and distribution, and increased Kansas juvenile access to marijuana products. While the reports have been more numerous from counties near Colorado, they have come from throughout the state.
Although possession and sale of marijuana remains illegal nationwide under federal law, the U.S. Department of Justice has elected not to fully enforce federal law in states like Colorado that have “legalized” marijuana under their state law. However, federal enforcement guidelines state that federal enforcement remains appropriate if marijuana from states like Colorado comes into surrounding states and causes harm. Kansas state law prohibits the possession or distribution of marijuana.
Nebraska and Oklahoma have sued Colorado in the U.S. Supreme Court, pointing to harm caused in those states by the illegal importation of marijuana from Colorado. The Supreme Court has not yet stated whether it will hear the case. Kansas has not joined in that legal challenge, although Schmidt said his office continues to carefully monitor the case.
“We’re approaching this unprecedented situation methodically so we can assess and then, if needed, address the actual problems,” Schmidt said. “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.”