If New Jersey legalizes weed, Philly and NYC could see more potent pot

If New Jersey moves ahead with legalizing marijuana, as Gov. Phil Murphy advocates, there’s little chance that newly legal weed would stay in the state.

Colorado began legal marijuana sales in 2014. Kansas says it’s seeing stronger pot coming into its state. (Bigstock Image)

If New Jersey moves ahead with legalizing marijuana, as Gov. Phil Murphy advocates, there’s little chance that newly legal weed would stay in the state. That’s the consensus from officials WHYY talked to from two states that border Colorado, which has had legalized pot sales since June 2014.

Kansas and Utah continue to seize small amounts of pot along their border. A Utah lawmaker says he hasn’t seen anything to indicate big problems since Colorado’s decision.

“We haven’t seen any increased crime, nothing to show any legal issues,” said Utah state Representative Gage Froerer, a Republican who has represented the 8thDistrict for a decade. “At the same time, I’m sure people are buying it in Colorado and bringing it back to Utah.”

The surprising part is that the amount hasn’t increased dramatically in either state. But in Kansas, a report completed after Colorado’s legalization found there was one thing that has changed — the quality of the drug.

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Potent pot

Click image to read the full report

A 2016 report prepared by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt found that, while there is evidence that weed was coming in from Colorado, the primary impact of Colorado’s legalization was that police are now finding more potent marijuana. That report was prepared with Kansas law enforcement agencies as Schmidt weighed joining Oklahoma and Nebraska by appealing directly to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to block legalizing marijuana in Colorado. Ultimately Kansas did not join the lawsuit in which the two states argued Colorado’s move created a “dangerous gap in the federal drug control system,” because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. But in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, which by-passed the lower federal courts in a rarely used tactic.

But Kansas says the higher grade coming from Colorado has replaced the low-grade compressed marijuana that came from Mexico. State trooper Jordan Plachecki of the Kansas Highway Patrol said you can see the difference. “Visually, you can see it’s good, green bud, compared to the compressed flakes,” he said, which his training tells him is a more potent product. But law enforcement doesn’t care about the quality of the drugs, only the weight.

If New Jersey legalizes the retail sale of marijuana, and the Garden State’s situation is anything like Colorado’s, one of things law enforcement officers in Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware are likely to see is much stronger pot being smuggled across the Hudson and Delaware rivers.


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