Methamphetamine and marijuana seizures rose across the U.S. during the pandemic, according to a recent analysis of law enforcement and illegal drugs.
The increase in seizures found by the National Institute on Drug Abuse specifically points to a significant uptick between April and September of 2020.
Here’s a look at the Bismarck Police Department’s seizures of these two drugs during that time:
Marijuana intake does appear to follow the national trend, but the amount of meth seized was more than cut in half.
Bismarck Police Detective Sgt. Mike Bolme says the local statistics, showing a drop in methamphetamine seizures, make more sense than the rise nationally.
“Intuition would tell you that the demand would increase during the pandemic and especially during the shutdown…But as far as the increase in seizures, the borders were closed which would affect some of those especially large seizures,” he explained.
“A lot of those happen at the border, so my instincts tell me that the seizures should have been down.”
Sgt. Bolme says marijuana is generally sourced inside the U.S., which could possibly explain why seizures of it increased from 2019 to 2020 in the capital city.
But, as Sgt. Bolme explained, “We’re such a small statistical sample that any large seizure is going to kind of skew the numbers, and we see that from year to year with all of our seizures.”
Across the river at the Morton County Sheriff’s Office, they track the number of drug seizures, rather than the weight of meth and marijuana in grams.
“They kinda stayed the same,” said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier.
He says 37 drug arrests were made, mostly for personal possession of meth and marijuana, in 2019, compared to 34 in 2020.
“People were moving around less,” he explained.
“You kind of have to look at what law enforcement was doing during the pandemic also,” Sgt. Bolme added.
“We were really being encouraged, not just patrol but the drug units as well, to not go out and do that proactive activity that usually leads to those large seizures.”
Although they’re back to pre-pandemic levels now, Sheriff Kirchmeier says traffic stops were slowed significantly for his department as well. He says that’s where drug seizures happen.
“Yes. As far as the deputies and the Sheriff’s Office, they all come from traffic stops,” the Sheriff added.
As for the national statistics, Sgt. Bolme is left rather baffled.
“It makes me curious why those two substances…why the seizures would increase and why heroin and those — the opioids — would not. Because the demand for all of them would have had to have increased,” he mused.
Sgt. Bolme says large meth cases, where the department focuses on taking down entire criminal organizations, are the number two focus for Bismarck Police investigators, just behind opiates like heroin and fentanyl.
He says the rest, officers catch only as they come across it.