GRANTS, N.M. (KRQE) – More than $1 million worth of drugs are now off the streets of New Mexico, thanks to a single bust. But the suspect deputies say had the car full of drugs will not face any charges.
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Following a string of armed robberies at Allsup’s stores in Cibola County Thursday, county sheriff’s deputies were on high alert. “We were actually looking for the individuals that were involved in the armed robberies,” Sheriff Tony Mace said.
Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace says one of his deputies who also works on a federal drug test force made a traffic stop on a suspicious vehicle. Mace says the driver wasn’t connected to the robberies, but he did have something to hide. “When we’re talking a couple of hundred pounds of marijuana, it smells. It really gives off a strong odor,” the sheriff said.
The deputy found seven duffle bags stuffed full of hundreds of pounds of marijuana with a street value of more than $1 million. “A lot of people are going to ask if marijuana is about to be legal in New Mexico. It is, for personal consumption, however trafficking is still a crime,” Mace said.
However, the federal threshold for prosecuting marijuana crimes goes by weight, and there must be 1,000 lbs or more of the drug. Mace says because this seizure doesn’t meet that weight requirement, the federal government declined to prosecute, simply interviewing the suspect and releasing him.
Mace says situations like this are very frustrating but adds the $1 million worth of marijuana will be destroyed. “It sounds like a lot but that’s just a drop in the bucket, as far as the amount of narcotics that are moving across our state,” Mace said.
Mace says they make large seizures along Cibola County’s stretch of I-40 at least once a week. “Last month, we were able to pick up several hundred pounds of methamphetamines that were going to San Juan County. We had picked up a couple pounds of heroin that were en route to Albuquerque,” Mace said.
Mace is still proud of his deputy for the bust but says there is still a lot of work to do. “Anytime we get a bust like that, we’re ecstatic we’re able to keep those narcotics from getting into other communities,” Mace said.
Even when recreational marijuana is legal in April, having more than two ounces of cannabis will be considered a misdemeanor. Possessing more than eight ounces will be considered a felony.