WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Since Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012, the flow of pot on U.S. Highway 287 in Texas, from Amarillo to Beaumont, has increased. It's just over 646 miles of highway that drug smugglers have utilized for decades as a safer road than interstates to travel to deliver their haul. Now all along that highway law enforcement is putting a dent in the drug smuggling business all over the lone star state.
"We're just observing traffic on 287. Looking for smugglers traveling up and down the highway," said Wichita County Drug Interdiction Deputy Justin Mitchell.
Deputies like Justin Mitchell are watching and waiting for a big haul.
"They're always trying to get it through. That's their job and that's how they make money," said Deputy Mitchell. "So, they're always going to try and it through no matter what."
From a 1,000 pound pot bust in January, to 480 pounds in March. The drugs just keep flowing.
The Texas Department of Public Safety made just over 74,000 stops in 2017 on Highway 287. That was just between Amarillo and Ft. Worth. Some of those stops turned into big drug smuggling busts, but not all of them.
"If you take 3,000 pounds off in one month. You've still got another 150,000 that's gone by somewhere. Weather it's in trucks, cars, semi trucks, boats, trailers, everything. It's unbelievable," says Wichita County Sheriff David Duke.
Highway 287 has become the preferred route to move drugs all over the state. Once they hit the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex, and its vast highway system, it can end up anywhere from Tyler to Waco to West Texas.
"No road is off limits," says Texas DPS Sergeant Dan Buesing. "I-40 has hundreds of pounds. We've had hundreds of pounds here. Over 200 to 300 pounds here on 287. Multiple times. A variety of drugs."
Sheriffs all over Texas have started Drug Interdiction Units. Specially trained Deputies and K9 units on the lookout for smugglers. They each have hundreds of hours of extra training.
"They just mainly teach you about behavior associated with smugglers. You always have trends in different places and they always change they're always finding better ways to craft their trade. That's always a changing factor but what always stays the same is their behavior," said Deputy Mitchell.
The Drug Interdiction deputies relay information to law enforcement all over Texas on a daily basis.
"They've seen great results. We all share for the most part with each other trying to find out what is working what is not." said Trooper Dan Buesing. "Things to look for so it's a statewide thing throughout all of the jurisdictions that are really focusing on that interdiction method to get those illegal products off our highway."