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The Wyoming Drug Corridor

It’s basic logistics. Look at a map and you’ll see Interstate 84 and 80 come together and offer a route east from California, Oregon or Washington. That makes I-80 a natural route to transport marijuana from the permissive west coast, through our state to points east and south. With weed legal in Washington and loose laws in both California and Oregon, smugglers can pick up a load in one of those states and then run the gauntlet.

An example from earlier this year shows how this works. Two men were stopped doing 85 on a stretch of I-80 by State Troopers. Smelling marijuana, Troopers searched and found two suitcases – both men denied knowing who owned them. Inside, officers found nearly a hundred grand of marijuana – 15 pounds.

One of the men was wanted on a warrant out of Florida, a warrant for cocaine possession. Troopers suspect the men were transporting the weed from California to their home state.

Data for marijuana arrests in Wyoming from 2009 ranked our state ninth in the nation. At one point, marijuana was the most popular drug of abuse here, now replaced by prescription narcotics. Our state has relatively strong penalties for marijuana possession, ranging from a thousand dollar fine and a year in jail (one ounce) up to a $10,000 fine and 5 years in jail. Contrast this with California’s current law which has a $100 fine for under an ounce and a misdemeanor (up $500 fine) for over an ounce.

Along with the disparity in penalties if caught, dealers also get a much better price in other states, partly a reflection of the strong enforcement efforts in Wyoming. Less risk lowers price.

In the end, even dealers as far away as Florida can see the west coast as an attractive supply point and use our interstate highways for transportation. According to the 2010 National Drug Threat Assessment, I-80 is part of “Corridor B” – a route used to move drugs like methamphetamine from Mexico and California throughout the northwest states and then eastward: “[drug] seizures on these interstates accounted for 46 percent of all reported methamphetamine seizures and 31 percent of all marijuana seizures on interstates from 2008 through October 2009.”

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