BOISE CITY — A month after recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado, the flood of Rocky Mountain weed law enforcement officials predicted would come across the border into Oklahoma doesn't appear to have materialized.
At least, not yet.
About 53 percent of Colorado voters in November 2012 voted to repeal the state's ban on recreational marijuana. That change went into effect at the beginning of January.
The new law allows anyone older than 21 to buy small amounts of marijuana from dispensaries in the state. Colorado residents may buy up to an ounce of marijuana in one transaction, while out-of-state residents are limited to a quarter ounce.
Before the change, officials predicted the new law would lead to an increase in marijuana coming into Oklahoma from Colorado, similar to the spike the state saw when Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2010.
But Mark Woodward, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, said the officials haven't seen any substantial increase in the amount of marijuana the bureau seizes over the past month.
The bureau intercepts a shipment of marijuana coming from Colorado about every two to three weeks, Woodward said. That hasn't changed much since Colorado legalized medical marijuana. But he said he suspects the state will begin to see the number of shipments increase as the months go by.
“It's probably just a matter of time,” he said. “It's too early to have hard, fast numbers on how many.”
It's also difficult for state narcotics agents to tell whether a shipment of marijuana they seize comes from Colorado, Woodward said. Marijuana coming into the state from Colorado is usually packaged in clear bags. Medical marijuana coming from California is usually packaged the same way, meaning it's difficult to tell one from the other unless the driver tells officers where it came from, he said.
Despite that uncertainty, Woodward said the bureau has seized a few large shipments of marijuana officers suspect were bought in Colorado. A few shipments were well over 200 pounds, Woodward said.
In those cases, Woodward said officers think buyers went to Colorado and bought large amounts of marijuana from a legal dispensary.
Although state law places a quarter-ounce limit on sales to out-of-state residents, Woodward said those limits can be hard to enforce.
“They cannot regulate every sale,” he said. “They can't have police in every marijuana patch and every dispensary to see what's being sold under the table and what's going out the back door.”
State narcotics officers have also intercepted drivers from as far away as North Carolina and New Jersey carrying shipments of Colorado marijuana through Oklahoma and back to the East Coast. Because of the higher quality of the marijuana coming from Colorado, sellers are sometimes able to sell it for thousands of dollars more per pound than lower-grade pot from Mexican cartels.
Cimarron County Sheriff Leon Apple said his office also hasn't seen any increase in the amount of marijuana coming into his county, which is the only part of Oklahoma that shares a border with Colorado. Deputies have been told to be on the lookout for it, he said.
Unless a deputy pulls over a driver for another offense, such as speeding or erratic driving, there's no way to tell if that driver is carrying marijuana, he said.
“I'm sure we're missing some that's coming through,” he said.