Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Ozark Mountains are alive with the smell of high-quality, expensive weed from Colorado and other states where marijuana is legal and easily available

Noah Hayes Shuler and Aubrynne Russell
Marijuana has become a prime subject here at Legal Schnauzer, thanks mainly to the legal travails of my nephew, Noah Hayes Shuler -- the son of my lawyer-brother David Shuler.

While researching the MJ issue recently, we came across an article about the changing drug culture here in the Missouri Ozarks. It seems the region once was known for low-quality, inexpensive weed that tended to arrive from Mexico. That's not the case anymore, as this article from 2015 explains:

It was only a few years ago when undercover narcotics officers could set up a dealer on the cheap — only $1,000 for a pound of marijuana.

Today, to bust a drug dealer for that same amount of weight, they expect to pay up to six-times that.

Dan Banasik, a Missouri State Highway Patrol supervising sergeant for narcotics, said the Springfield market has been inundated with high-grade marijuana from Colorado and other states where the drug is legal.

“We’ve seen a large increase in that,” Banasik said. “Since it is legal there, I don’t believe the enforcement is as tough.”

Banasik said the marijuana coming from Colorado is a much higher quality than the Mexican weed that was most common in Springfield a decade ago. He said the product from Colorado has much higher levels of THC — the main active ingredient in marijuana — meaning it takes less of the drug to achieve a stronger high.

So, a "Rocky Mountain High" now can be had in the Ozarks. But it comes with extra potency and a serious price hike, both of which could be troublesome for users:

Banasik said the more potent marijuana has driven up the price of the drug in Springfield. But while that may be good news for dealers in town, local experts say the recent infusion of potent marijuana could be trouble.

Mark Wood, chemistry professor at Drury University, said marijuana works by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain. He said those neurotransmitters play a role in just about everything — including fear, pleasure, hunger, smell, vision and pain.

Wood said the higher the THC level in marijuana, the bigger the impact the drug has on those neurotransmitters in the brain.

“Anytime you increase the active ingredient in something, you are going to get a bigger effect,” Wood said. “If there is an addictive effect or a negative effect, it is going to be bigger.”

That takes us back to Noah Hayes Shuler. He lives at the Millwood golf-course community near Ozark, MO, in a house appraised at more than $621,000. That means he likely can afford the good stuff from Colorado, or some other state where MJ is legal.

Colorado weed -- the expensive kind
For his recent possession-of-drug-paraphernalia case, Noah was described in the police report as owner of a rubber MJ pipe and three mostly empty sandwich bags -- all containing marijuana residue. How did all three baggies become empty at the same time? One answer might be that someone dumped the weed in the car when police lights were spotted in the rear-view mirror. A Sparta, MO, cop on the scene did not search the vehicle, driven by Noah's girlfriend (Aubrynne Russell), so we likely will never know.

Here are three other questions, with elusive answers:

* What kind of weed was in Noah's baggies? Was it the expensive kind from Colorado, which now seems to be the rage on the Ozarks scene -- especially among those who can afford it?

* If Noah had been smoking the MJ the officer smelled -- and it was the highly potent kind -- how high was Noah at the time of the traffic stop?

* If all three baggies once were full, that means Noah possessed at least three ounces of weed. Our research indicates that is way more than a casual user typically would have. Whether Noah was using (which the pipe suggests) or dealing (which the three baggies suggest), how much did the weed cost, and where did Noah get it?

Finally, why has Noah's drug case disappeared from the public record at case.net? A reader recently suggested prosecutors might have offered Noah a soft sentence (and a hidden record) if he turned into a confidential informant -- also known as a snitch -- to help nail others on drug charges.

We don't know if that's the case, but it certainly would explain some oddities surrounding Noah's case.

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