A 50-year-old man caught Monday in Utah with hundreds of pounds of marijuana and thousands of THC vape pens and cartridges was charged Tuesday and could spend up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
A Utah Highway Patrol trooper pulled the Rhode Island man over on eastbound Interstate 80 in Summit County for an unspecified equipment violation, according to charges filed Wednesday in the Utah District of the United States District Court.
The man, who was alone, told the trooper he borrowed the van he was driving to help move a friend’s belongings to Rhode Island.
The trooper let K-9 Drago sniff the car, and the dog indicated it smelled some kind of drugs. When the trooper asked the driver if there was a reason the dog would react that way, the man reportedly said “most likely.”
The trooper searched the vehicle and found “numerous” cardboard boxes wrapped in plastic and four metal toolboxes with padlocks, according to court documents. Inside those containers, police allegedly found the following:
7,000 refill THC vape pen cartridges
800 hashish cigars
1,400 THC vape pens
400 jars of marijuana concentrates
204 1-pound packages of marijuana
The man has been charged with one count of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. He could spend up to 20 years in prison and could face a fine of up to $1 million. He is currently being held at the Summit County jail.
U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber said in a statement that this bust was a symptom of marijuana legalization in other western states, like in Colorado, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington. He said those sates have become “operating bases for criminal organizations.”
These organizations, he said, recruit drivers to carry loads of marijuana and related THC products from the west cost to the east coast, and bring “dirty cash” back west in return.
“Utah is living up to its nickname — the crossroads of the west — thanks to our neighbor states who have created, even if unintentionally, safe havens for drug trafficking criminal organizations,” Huber said.
The federally illegal plant has been decriminalized for medical use in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Utahns will vote on a medical marijuana ballot initiative, known as Proposition 2, in November. The initiative would allow qualifying patients to purchase marijuana products from privately owned dispensaries.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has said no matter the outcome of the vote, he will call a special legislative session to debate an alternate medical marijuana proposal.
The draft bill — announced last week as a compromise between the factions on both sides of the state’s marijuana debate — would allow patients to procure marijuana from their county health departments or at one of five “medical cannabis pharmacies” across the state.