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Police seize thousands of cannabis pens, cigars in I-80 traffic stop

COALVILLE — Police seized thousands of pen cartridges and vape pens containing THC during a traffic stop in Summit County this week that led to the arrest of a Rhode Island man.

A Utah Highway Patrol trooper stopped a GMC Savana van on I-80 Monday for an equipment violation, according to complaint filed in federal court.

The driver, James Martin Burns, 50, told the trooper he borrowed the van to help move a friend to Rhode Island. While waiting for a records check, the trooper deployed his dog, Drago, to sniff outside the van. The trooper asked Burns if the dog would find anything and he replied, "most likely," the complaint says.

A search of the van found 7,000 pen cartridges containing THC; 800 hashish cigars; 1,400 vape pens with THC; 400 jars of marijuana concentrates, and 204 1-pound packages of a green, plant-like material that tested positive for marijuana, according to the complaint.

Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana's psychological effects.

U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber said legalized marijuana use in other states has a negative impact on Utah.

“States where marijuana has been legalized, whether under the auspices of so-called medical marijuana or otherwise, have become operating bases for criminal organizations," he said.

Offenders drive loads of marijuana products east from the West Coast, and loads of dirty cash back west, Huber said.

"Utah is living up to its nickname — the crossroads of the West — thanks to our neighbor states who have created, even if unintentionally, safe havens for drug trafficking criminal organizations," he said. "We drag down our communities and individuals when we normalize and facilitate drug use."

Burns, of Providence, Rhode Island, is charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. He is being held in jail and is scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court next week. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted.