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UHP makes a 2nd big pot bust

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K9 dog Rambo sits in the middle of 150 pounds of high-grade marijuana that he detected in vehicle.

K9 dog Rambo sits in the middle of 150 pounds of high-grade marijuana that he detected in vehicle.

Utah Department of Public Safety

For the second day in a row, the Utah Highway Patrol on Tuesday made a big marijuana bust.

Just before 1 a.m., a UHP trooper pulled over an SUV on I-80 near 4000 West on a minor traffic violation. The driver told the trooper he was from northern California and was headed to Chicago for an antiques show, said UHP trooper Cameron Roden. He said he had been traveling 12 straight hours and was fatigued.

The driver had several wooden chairs in the back, all on top of six duffle bags partially covered with a blanket, Roden said. The trooper said he became suspicious of the situation and noticed the driver seemed nervous. He asked the driver for consent to search the SUV, but the driver refused.

That's when police K9 Rambo was brought out to circle the vehicle. Whether a driver gives consent to search or not, troopers are still allowed to let a K9 walk around the outside, Roden said. Rambo indicated there was something in the back of the SUV, Roden said. At that point, consent to search was not needed.

Trooper David Moreno searched the duffle bags and found 150 pounds of high-grade marijuana, Roden said. Although investigators weren't completely sure Wednesday, they believed the pot was grown in a hydroponic process in California.

Michael Patrick Murphy, 58, from Penn Valley, Calif., was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of drug possession with intent to distribute, a second-degree felony.

That bust followed another Monday, also on I-80 near Coalville. In that incident, two men were arrested by the UHP after another police K9 discovered 33 pounds of marijuana in the trunk and spare tire well of their vehicle.

Two men, both 29, were arrested. They were reportedly en route from Salt Lake City to Des Moines, Iowa.

The two busts were not believed to be related. But Roden noted the department's drug interdiction squad had been hitting the streets hard the past few weeks looking for drug traffickers.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com