ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – You might want to bring back a souvenir when you go on vacation, but be cautious with what you bring back from Colorado.
That’s because law enforcement in New Mexico are looking for illegal souvenirs from our neighbors to the north.
On January 1, Colorado’s recently-passed marijuana legalization law went into effect. But New Mexico residents, looking for a Rocky Mountain high, are buying pot in Colorado and bringing it back to New Mexico, which is illegal.
“Not really happy with what they’ve done, but it’s something we have to deal with because we live so close to Colorado,” said Bloomfield Police Commander Marlyn Wyatt.
Law Enforcement officers in the Four Corners area — including Bloomfield police, Aztec police and San Juan County Sheriff’s deputies — are catching more people with marijuana. There are marijuana shops throughout Colorado, where people can legally buy the drug.
“Being that it’s just 45 minutes away, it’s so easy to go up, get it, come back down here and nobody knows,” said San Juan County Sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Facka.
Bloomfield police have seen a 10 to 20 percent increase in marijuana busts in the past six months and are doing more blood draws to prove a person is high. Aztec police say their roadside sobriety tests have increased three-fold.
San Juan County Sheriff’s deputies are seeing an increase in burglaries. They say the uptick may be due to the change in Colorado marijuana laws.
“People can’t afford to buy it every day, so they go out and steal to get their money and go buy it. That affects the community all the way around,” Facka said.
Law enforcement has ramped up street patrols, pulling people over for traffic violations then finding marijuana in the vehicles.
That happened to 21-year-old Joseph Niziol, who Bloomfield Police say had 10 pounds of marijuana in his truck in 2012. At the time, Colorado was ramping up its grows and passing the legislation that relaxed marijuana laws for personal use. Police say Niziol had a map pinpointing where the drugs would be distributed in New Mexico.
“It’s a money game. There’s a lot of money involved in it,” Wyatt said.
Officers are also seeing small bags of marijuana for personal use.
The Colorado marijuana has made it into Four Corners schools, according to Bloomfield police.
“It’s not a big deal to them, and they’ve made comments like: ‘Well it’s legal in Colorado, we can get it there,'” said Bloomfield Police School Resource Officer Ken Adair.
Law enforcement agencies say they collect grant money to help keep the extra enforcement because the marijuana movement is not slowing down. Officers say they’re concerned now that people are not only bringing back the marijuana illegally from Colorado, but are also driving while high.
“My family and your family and everybody else’s family is on the road, and when people are driving impaired — with anything, whether it’s prescription pills, marijuana or alcohol — it puts everybody’s lives in danger,” Facka said.