Sheriff discusses how marijuana legalization could affect E. Texas

Sheriff discusses how marijuana legalization could affect E. Texas

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - An East Texas sheriff is explaining his concerns about marijuana busts in Smith County over the past several weeks.

On Tuesday, the cleanup continues after a bust of over 4,000 plants in Smith County.

Smith County sheriff's officials believe recent grow operations have been run by cartel members.

"All those particular grows actually had people living, or had been living, in tents once they planted the marijuana," said Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith.

But it's the seizure of these plants that's causing frustration for those who want to see this drug legalized.

"If you don't own your own body, then you're a slave," said libertarian activist Joel Gardner. "I mean there is really no other way to look at it."

Gardner said the first solution to ending unnecessary tax spending on drug raids begins with the end of the drug war.

"Just because our legislature, our senators and congressman says something is bad doesn't mean that it's bad," said Gardner.

Sheriff Smith admits he's not as concerned with people smoking the drug, as he is with the danger surrounding these illegal grows. He mentioned instances where weapons are found at the sites where these growers flee their post.

According to Smith, over the last 30 years, drugs exports have changed dramatically.

Cocaine was mostly distributed from Colombia, methamphetamine from the United States, and marijuana from Mexico. But today, the main drug traffic into the states, hitting Texas first, comes from Mexico.

In an effort to learn more about the drug, he went to Colorado to ask officials an important question.

"What has legalizing marijuana done to Colorado?" said Smith. "It is unmentionable the things that have done to make Colorado a state that has never been and they never wanted to be. Now, you have the Russian mafia coming in, you have the cartel coming in, you have a huge Cuban influx coming in. They've got a runaway train that they can't stop and it is bleeding the resources that they have in Colorado dry."

Smith said regardless of whether or not the drug becomes legal, making sure the cartel doesn't have a presence in East Texas is always the first priority.

Since marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, experts say nearly 40 percent of growing operations there are now illegally being exported across the United States.

Copyright 2016 KLTV. All rights reserved.