Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt wants to know more about marijuana, specifically Colorado’s marijuana and its impact on his state. On Dec. 30, 2015, Schmidt sent out a survey to approximately 500 law enforcement departments from around the state, asking them about how Colorado marijuana has affected their jurisdiction.
“There are numerous and persistent anecdotal accounts of marijuana acquired in Colorado and illegally transported into Kansas causing harm here,” Schmidt said in a press release. “But because of technology limits, the confirming data is elusive.”
These anecdotal reports claim increased arrests of people under the influence of Colorado marijuana, increased numbers of people arrested for possession of Colorado marijuana and marijuana products, as well as an increase in the number of people diverting Colorado marijuana for illegal sales in Kansas.
Since there are no hard statistics available, the questions are fairly open ended. For example, one question asks, “Overall, how would you characterize the effect of Colorado marijuana ‘legalization’ in your jurisdiction since January 1, 2014?”
The reason why Schmidt is interested in collecting this information, aside from general record-keeping purposes, is that his office is considering joining Nebraska and Oklahoma in their lawsuit against Colorado.
Schmidt explained, “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.” Instead of jumping into the fray, Schmidt is gathering evidence.
Depending upon what that evidence reveals, Kansas may join Nebraska and Oklahoma in their lawsuit, or worse, ask for federal intervention.
In 2013, the Justice Department issued a release, known as the Cole Memo, which gave prosecutors guidance on legal marijuana. In the memo, it stressed that the Justice Department was primarily interested in preventing a series of specific crimes, like diversion of marijuana from one state to the other or preventing marijuana from falling into the hands of minors.
Should Kansas collect enough information, the state may try and make the case that it is time for the federal government to shut down Colorado’s marijuana industry. But that is a worst case scenario; shutting down the marijuana industry would take a lot more than an open-ended law enforcement survey.
In response to Schmidt’s survey, marijuana groups in the state have criticized the attorney general.
“Sadly, in Kansas, we have grown accustomed to our leadership caring about neither facts, nor the expressed will of the Kansas people,” said Lisa Sublett and Chris Gordon, members of the medical marijuana advocacy group Bleeding Kansas, to CJ Online.
At the end of the day it is impossible to tell exactly where Schmidt’s law enforcement survey will take Kansas or Colorado. While there is certainly a willingness among neighboring states to put the kibash on Colorado’s industry, the federal government still seems less enthusiastic. And given that the Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court not to take up the Nebraska and Oklahoma lawsuit, it seems unlikely that its stance will change in the near future.