Marijuana With Higher THC More Frequently Found On Shore
SALISBURY — High-grade marijuana use on the Eastern Shore is one the rise, according to local authorities.
While marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the country, marijuana with higher concentrations of THC, the psychoactive chemical in the drug, started cropping up on the Shore between 2004 and 2005.
“The big one we started to see is B.C. ( British Columbia ) bud,” said Sgt. Jason King of the Salisbury Police Department.
Then high-grade synthetic marijuana bearing street names –such as Purple Haze and Northern Lights –soon followed, he added.
Most of the time, law enforcement officers have to rely on their senses to detect the high-quality drug. The higher price drug will come in different colors –such as purple, blue, orange or red — and has a pungent odor, according to King.
“A bud of high-grade marijuana will look completely different than commercial-grade ( average ) marijuana,” said Patrizia Coletta, a Wicomico County assistant state’s attorney assigned to the Wicomico County Narcotics Task Force.
The potency of the drug is not tested at the crime lab, according to authorities, since the quality of the drug has no bearing on the criminal charges.
According to information released by the University of Mississippi Potency Monitoring Project, THC levels in marijuana more than doubled between 1983 and 2008. The potency project, which has analyzed marijuana, hashish and hash oil seized by law enforcement agencies since 1976, reached 10.1 percent in 2008 compared to under 4 percent in 1983. More than 40 percent of the marijuana samples in 2008 had THC levels of 9 percent or more.
The highest marijuana THC concentration reported in a sample analyzed by the potency project was 37.2 percent in 2007.
Most of the high-potency marijuana on the Eastern Shore is imported, according to law enforcement and legal sources.
Local authorities and The National Drug Intelligence Center, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, point to Canada as a major source of high-potency marijuana for drug markets in the United States. Most, about 90 percent, of the marijuana in Canada is grown indoors in British Columbia and outdoors in Ontario and Quebec.
Yet despite the availability of the drug from other areas, marijuana growers on the Eastern Shore are starting to develop their own strains and clone their personal brands of the drugs, according to Coletta.
“They’re breeding marijuana for traits that are more appealing for someone smoking it,” King said.
City officers located a resident marijuana grower when they responded to a burglary in progress on Beauchamp Street in 2008, according to charging documents. Investigators located the plants while inside the apartment and subsequently obtained a search-and-seizure warrant the same day.
Officers seized 26 marijuana plants, 4 pounds of suspect marijuana, digital scales and $14,642 in cash.
The plants were stored in a closet where they were grown using high-powered lighting and a ventilation system, according to court records.
The marijuana had an estimated value between $4,000 and $10,000 depending on how it was packaged and sold, according to police.
There has been an increasing demand for the higher quality drug, especially among college-aged individuals, because of its potency, according to local authorities. The increase in demand could trigger an increase in hashish and hash oils across the country, according to the NDIC.
A higher potency of marijuana could also result in more violent crime, according to police sources. Often, the higher valued drug is coupled with narcotics.
Salisbury police seized 250 grams of marijuana from a Hardin Court home in 2006. Police found the high-grade marijuana, 100 grams, inside a safe packaged in containers labeled with the dates of production and names of the different strains.
Officers also found cocaine and Ecstasy in the home.
The value, or quality, of the marijuana has no bearing on the prosecution of offenders caught with the drug, according to prosecutors.
“We don’t have more strict or severe penalties for these people who are cloning marijuana,” Coletta said. “Quality doesn’t affect the penalty. Quantity does.”
However, the value or quality of the marijuana can help authorities distinguish the street dealers one might find on a corner peddling drugs to support a habit from the dealer selling for profit, she added.
“A higher grade marijuana dealer is someone more involved with the trade,” Coletta said.