ICPD spends $100K to net 21 pounds of marijuana


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The Iowa City police are using nearly $105,000 in federal funds to perform searches along Interstate 80 through the end of 2011.

Authorities have collected nearly 21 pounds of marijuana in a little over a year, but legalization advocates think officials' time could be better spent.

According to data provided to The Daily Iowan by Iowa City police, officers have conducted 34 controlled-substance seizures, yielding about 21 pounds of Marijuana from searches performed between June 2010 and October.

Carl Olsen, a creator of IowaMedicalMarijuana.Org, said that though he feels police's "priorities are out of line," he holds legislators accountable.

"I just don't think you can start at the bottom of the food chain to solve the problem," he said. "If we think that the priorities are out of line, it's their boss that we should be talking to."

He said any change in this area requires local political interest.

"I think that people should start local initiatives," Olsen said. "Make this a low priority, and don't give these police officers any doubt."

But legislators have previously said change is still "a ways off" because they're nervous about seeming weak in the war on drugs.

Police stand by their decision to monitor I-80.

Hart, who is in charge of criminal investigations, said the searches are important because having such substances are a violation of state and federal law, and he noted that other substances besides marijuana are seized.

"We don't specifically target marijuana. We target drugs," Hart said. "I personally witness and have spoken with individuals and families that have had all drugs, including marijuana, affect their lives negatively."

Iowa City police reported 263 searches between June 2010 and October, with $2,847 worth of substances collected.

Hart said the department plans to reapply for the federal grant next year.

But some students take issue with law enforcement's emphasis on random searches.

University of Iowa sophomore Kar Amin said law-enforcement officials performing searches along I-80 shouldn't be a priority.

"It's not that important," Amin said. "Marijuana doesn't really harm anyone."

Others feel the searches are necessary.

UI sophomore Stephen McDonald said he felt the police's monitoring of I-80 is "worth the police's time."

"Most marijuana has blood on it somewhere. Look at the incredibly horrible numbers coming out of Mexico … that's where a good portion of the marijuana comes from," he said. "How the marijuana gets through the system is bad."

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