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Kan. sheriff mulls future after Colo. pot vote

SHARON SPRINGS (AP) -- If Colorado's new marijuana law holds up, western Kansas Sheriff Larry Townsend is pretty sure people from the region will descend on the state to get their legal buzz.

That undoubtedly will include marijuana smokers from Townsend's Wallace County community of Sharon Springs, who won't have a problem driving the 17 miles to the Colorado border to stock up on weed supplies.

"I don't think Colorado should have passed this," Townsend told the Kansas City Star. "I don't think it's good for the people of that state or my state or society as a whole."

Colorado's Amendment 64 passed Tuesday with 53-percent approval. The law allows anyone older than 21 to go into a specialty retail store and buy up to an ounce of marijuana, and it lets people grow up to six marijuana plants.

The state was awaiting word on whether the U.S. Justice Department would sue to block the recreational marijuana measures approved in Colorado and Washington. Both states were holding off on plans to regulate and tax the drug while waiting to see whether the government would assert federal authority over drug law.

Seventeen states allow people with certain medical conditions to use marijuana, which also is banned under federal law but has received little resistance from the Obama administration, especially toward individual users.

The amendment's passage has led many to speculate how it would affect Colorado's thriving tourism industry, with supporters suggesting pot smokers from surrounding states will flock there to buy legal marijuana, bringing in millions of dollars to the state's economy.

"You know people are going to drive to Colorado from Kansas City and a whole bunch of other places," Townsend said. "They will buy where it's legal, and as soon as they leave the state, it's going to be a crime. It's going to be a terrible mess."

For now, the Kansas Highway Patrol isn't making plans for grand interdiction efforts should the Colorado amendment stand.

Patrol spokesman Lt. Josh Kellerman said he has been involved with plenty of traffic stops in which vehicle occupants possessed marijuana. He said Colorado's decision to legalize the drug wouldn't have much of an effect on how the KHP does its job.

"If you're driving through our state and say it's legal in Colorado, well, you're in Kansas and you're subject to our state's laws," Kellerman said.

"The bottom line is, nothing changes for us. Could we see more (marijuana)? I guess, but we're still going to handle it as we do now."

Kansas City, Mo., attorney Coulter deVries supports marijuana legalization and believes residents of other states will go to Colorado to buy pot. But he cautioned it's important to pay attention to what the federal government does because Washington trumps any state laws when it comes to saying what people can smoke.

"Look, a lot of people smoke pot, and it's ridiculous to throw them in jail when they get caught with it," deVries said.