North Dakota, Minnesota highways: a gateway for the gateway drug

Published: Dec. 15, 2017 at 7:02 PM CST
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Another one bites the dust.

Some $30,000 worth of marijuana recovered in Morton County on Wednesday is just the latest of many recent drug busts, between North Dakota and Minnesota.

Capt. Bryan Niewind, of the North Dakota Highway Patrol, recently helped recover 186 pounds of marijuana right here in town.

"Everyday it seems like we're finding something, sometimes it's personal use, sometimes it's a large seizure," he said.

The most recent large bust for him involved the West Fargo police department just a couple weeks ago.

He says lately, the highways are seeing more than just regular traffic—and that drug traffic is becoming more regular.

"I just know that in 2017,” Niewind said, “we've had more traffic stops that have involved large seizures of marijuana than we've had in previous years."

Just like in North Dakota, the Minnesota Highway Patrol says since last January it's seen nearly 800 felony narcotic seizures, and it too has noticed an increase in the pounds of marijuana seized.

But it's not just pot.

"Marijuana seizures, meth seizures and heroin seizures,” Niewind said. “You know all those drugs are actually, they're always coming through our roads here in North Dakota."

So what's the reason? Niewind says I-94 is a main road connecting the West Coast to the East Coast.

"Majority of the marijuana that is utilized right now in the United States,” he said, “is grown on the West Coast of the United States, California, Oregon, Washington."

Plus, other states cracking down pushes the pushers farther out north.

"If you're coming through North Dakota,” he said, “you're probably traveling out of your way to get to Chicago 'cuz there's more direct routes from California to Chicago than driving through North Dakota."

So with all the drug busts, will these numbers go down?

Fargo resident Richard Pross doesn't think so.

"I guess it's a sign of the times,” Pross said, “with all the legalization and other things that are happening across the country, I supposed there's people bringing it from one state to the next."

Pross says it's also a down-side to the state's recent population growth.

But state highway patrol's Capt. Bryan Niewind says the busts are at least in part a good thing.

"We're training our law enforcement officers a lot better,” Niewind said, “in detecting the clues and the signs to look for, for drug trafficker that's involved with the criminal element."

Which, he says, makes taking more drugs off the street rewarding.