DENVER – Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead says he’s concerned about increased trafficking in his state as Colorado prepares to allow the sale of recreational marijuana to the public.
Colorado released rules last week covering licensing, tracking, packaging and advertising of recreational marijuana sales. Colorado officials, wary of federal sanctions, have emphasized the marijuana must be consumed in-state.
But Mead, a former federal prosecutor, said Wednesday he remains concerned about drug smuggling into his state and increased impaired driving.
“Since I knew they were going this direction, I’ve expressed concerned about it, in terms of how it will impact Wyoming citizens and Wyoming law enforcement,” said Mead, who previously served as U.S. Attorney for Wyoming. He said he hasn’t reviewed the new Colorado rules.
Mead said he’s talked to law enforcement in Wyoming and Colorado about recreational pot sales set to begin as soon as Jan. 1. Under the rules, Colorado residents over 21 can buy up to 1 ounce of marijuana while those who don’t show Colorado identification can buy a quarter-ounce.
The U.S. Justice Department last month announced that Colorado and Washington can go their own way without federal interference as long as they implement enforcement systems intended to keep marijuana in-state and preventing drugged driving. The drug remains is illegal under federal law.
As a prosecutor, Mead said he saw traffic stops on interstate highways that led to some very large drug cases.
“My belief is that the recreational drug use of marijuana in Colorado will have adverse impact to some degree, we don’t know what yet, to citizens in Wyoming,” Mead said. “And that is a concern.”
Law enforcement officials in Wyoming said officers remain ready to arrest anyone with marijuana.
“A lot of the guys on the street and on the road have already heard when they’re dealing with guys who’ve been caught with marijuana, “Well it’s legal here, it’s legal there,’” said Detective Dick Blust Jr. of the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office, which abuts Colorado.
“Well, it’s not legal here,” Blust said. “You’re not in Colorado, you’re not in Washington.”
Lt. John Bannister of the Wichita, Kan., police department said he expects Colorado recreational sales will bring more marijuana to Kansas.
“Do I think that people may decide to drive to Colorado, and somehow get more than an ounce and bring it back? Absolutely, because we see it every day,” Bannister said, citing numerous cases in which hundreds of pounds of pot are smuggled into Kansas from Colorado, which has long permitted medical marijuana.
Mead said he can’t imagine Wyoming ever legalizing marijuana.
“I not only don’t see that in the near future. I don’t see it in any future,” Mead said.