Legalization of marijuana elsewhere making it more accessible in - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Legalization of marijuana elsewhere making it more accessible in La Crosse

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW) -

The pot pipeline has made its presence felt in the La Crosse area due to its location and its proximity to a major interstate highway.

Eight states have legalized marijuana for recreational use. For decades, the black market was the only source of recreational marijuana in America.

In 2012, that changed when Colorado voters approved a ballot initiative to legalize the drug. That change can be felt across the country including the La Crosse area.  

"One of the problems I see is the people legitimately trying to grow marijuana according to the specs or the laws out in Colorado tend to use that system then they grow way beyond what the regulations allow for," said Tom Johnson, Investigative Coordinator for the West Central MEG Unit. They investigate drug-related crime in the region. 

Legalization advocates have long argued that regulating marijuana forces the industry out of the shadows and into the public eye, where the drug can be taxed and the black market effectively eliminated. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety would disagree, saying dealers are getting more bold.

"It is sitting in the back seat of a car or in the back of a pick up truck where some of them or some become very involved and hide it in very sophisticated compartments," said Brian Marquart, the Gang & Drug Commander for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Others say having marijuana legal in some states and not others causes more problems because people who once grew and sold marijuana in Wisconsin and Minnesota are finding it's easier to let someone else do the work.

"It's just much easier to ship those quantities to an area like this then we have people who would have had indoor grow operations and outdoor grows and now it's just simply easier to take the risk and buy marijuana that's been shipped in and broken down into smaller quantities," said Johnson.  

The drugs in legal states are stronger and provide more variety for those wanting to get high.  Officials with the Minnesota State Patrol say the only way to stop this is to target mid-to-upper level dealers.

"The Minnesota State Patrol has increased to 15 canine units. We've been able to increase the amount of seizures coming in to the state," said Marquart.

It's just one effort in the war against drugs but both Wisconsin and Minnesota law enforcement say it's working.

Seven states followed Colorado in making marijuana legal. Now, nearly 65 million Americans live in states where adults can legally consume marijuana.

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