Kansas Sheriff Seizes Money From Legal Marijuana Sales In Missouri

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A Pennsylvania company is asking federal court to return approximately $ 166,000 of the proceeds from Missouri marijuana sales that were seized by law enforcement in Kansas while the money was en route to Colorado.

The Kansas attorney’s office filed the civil asset forfeiture case in Wichita U.S. District Court last month.

Federal prosecutors claim the money is subject to confiscation due to alleged violations of a US law against the manufacture and distribution of drugs. The driver of the pickup truck, however, has not been charged with any federal crimes in Kansas, according to U.S. District Court records.

Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Bryson Wheeler, who is stationed in Kansas, wrote the affidavit detailing the allegations in the case.

The roughly $ 165,620 in cash was seized by Dickinson County Sheriff’s Deputy Kalen Robison during a May 18 traffic stop on I-70 near the Abilene exit. The money was in a Ford Transit van owned by Empyreal Logistics

Robison first stopped the van on May 17 for an unspecified traffic violation, according to the affidavit. The driver told the assistant that she was an employee of Denver-based Empyreal Logistics and had been tasked with hauling cash from marijuana dispensaries in Kansas City, Missouri, through Kansas, to a Colorado credit union.

Court documents do not indicate whether dispensaries sold medical marijuana, which is legal under Missouri law.

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The driver stopped twice in two days

The driver said she was on her way to Kansas City and would collect the cash proceeds from the marijuana companies. The driver was released. The DEA then monitored the driver “stopping and entering several state marijuana dispensaries” on the Missouri subway side, according to the affidavit.

A day after the first traffic stop, Robison stopped the Empyreal van again along the highway in Dickinson County. The affidavit did not specify the reason for the stopping of the vehicle.

Law enforcement then seized five bags of cash, which the driver said came from several marijuana dispensaries in Kansas City. A drug dog later “was alerted to the smell of marijuana coming from the currency,” the DEA agent wrote, and “marijuana is a controlled and illegal substance under federal law and under that law. of the State of Kansas “.

Empyreal Logistics is a Pennsylvania-based company. In court records, lawyers for the company dispute claims that the money was linked to drug trafficking and subject to confiscation.

“The plaintiff’s claims should be excluded because the conduct which generated the defendant’s property was legal under the law of the State of Missouri and authorized tacitly or affirmatively by the action of the federal government of the United States,” said writes the lawyers of the company.

Empyreal’s website advertises cash management.

“With our targeted technology and our discreet, environmentally friendly armored vehicles, we can save you time and money,” the website says.

While a growing majority of states have legalized medical marijuana, a smaller number have legalized recreational use. Voters in Missouri approved the legalization of medical marijuana by amending the state’s constitution via a voting initiative in 2018.

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Medical marijuana still illegal in Kansas

Kansas is one of a dozen states where medical marijuana remains illegal, although a bill to create a medical marijuana program was passed by Kansas House at the end of the year. the last session.

Federal law enforcement and prosecutors have been in a difficult position.

“Any activity involving marijuana that is not authorized under the CSA remains a federal crime throughout the United States, including in states that have claimed to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes,” wrote the Congressional Research Service in a May 2020 report.

President Joe Biden advocated for the legalization of medical marijuana and the decriminalization of possession, but opposed full legalization.

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In May, Attorney General Merrick Garland told a US House of Representatives committee that the Justice Department would not target the marijuana industry in states where it is legal.

“The department’s perspective on marijuana use is that enforcement against consumption is not a good use of our resources… in states where it is regulated,” Garland said of the states. where cannabis is legal.

US trial judge Kenneth Gale has set a scheduling conference for January 4. Prior to this date, the parties will discuss and file a report on the nature of the claims and defenses, as well as the possibility of a settlement or other resolution of the dispute.

A DEA public affairs spokesperson said the agency is not commenting on pending litigation. Federal prosecutors and company lawyers did not immediately respond on Friday afternoon.

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