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2019 Was Record Year For Minnesota Drug Busts, Especially Marijuana Products

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Drug enforcement teams had a record year of drug seizures in 2019, but one category really jumped in the last year.

Methamphetamine busts increased, and heroin, prescription pills and cocaine seizures nearly doubled from 2018 to 2019.

And a drug legal in other states has found its way to Minnesota. Recreational marijuana is now legal in 11 states: from plants to products.

READ MORE: Driving While High: Could Minnesota Get Burned By Recreational Marijuana?

WCCO traveled to Colorado, the first state to legalize the drug, and found people looking for a high.

"I asked for the highest percentage of THC," one man said.

Others, like Tessa from South Dakota, visited the state because you can use there without criminal consequences.

"It's just a relaxing feeling. It calms my nerves," Tessa said.

And that demand may be what's driving people to bring products to Minnesota, according to Brian Marquart, the statewide gang and drug coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

"We do seize green leaf marijuana, but we are seeing large seizures lately of edibles and concentrates, vape cartridges. We had a large seizure, our largest seizure," Marquart said.

In September, the Northwest Metro Drug Task Force discovered more than 75,000 THC vaping cartridges at a home in Anoka County -- the largest bust in state history.

READ MORE: Stopped With 2 Pounds Of Pot, Minnesota Woman Told Nebraska Troopers It Was Birthday Present

"I think literally people are chasing the higher quantity THC," Marquart said.

State seizures of marijuana products is up 33 times since recreational marijuana became legal in 2014. It rose 62% from 2018 to 2019. Products have come from Colorado, California, Oregon and Washington. Now, a closer state has approved recreational marijuana: Illinois.

"If it's easier to get products from someplace closer, then they may," Marquart said.

He says that should get our attention.

"Drug use in general drives our crime. People are stealing, robbing, having gang activity because of our drugs, so it should concern all of us that we're seeing any type of increase," Marquart said.

Legislators are proposing a bill this session to legalize recreational marijuana in Minnesota. Medical marijuana for certain conditions is allowed here.

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