A large tub full of high-grade marijuana sits inside an evidence room in Maury County.
The street value of the pot is tens of thousands of dollars. It was confiscated by the 22nd Judicial District Drug Task Force.
“If you want to talk about the most common drug, of course it’s marijuana, that’s the drug that’s probably used illegally more than any other drug,” said Brent Cooper, Attorney General for the 22nd Judicial District.
The district includes Giles, Lawrence, Maury and Wayne counties. General Cooper said the pipeline of marijuana flowing into the area has changed.
“For a long time the vast majority of the marijuana we had here came from Mexico, and it was relatively cheap,” he said.
With the legalization of marijuana in parts of the U.S., Cooper told News 2 pot now flows into the area from states like Colorado and California.
General Cooper said the drug is driven into the area, or in some cases, sent in the mail.
He told News 2 the marijuana is “much higher quality than the marijuana we got from Mexico. It’s grown in a more controlled atmosphere; it’s genetically altered to be more potent. And along with that, the price is extremely high.”
As the price of marijuana has risen, so has the violence surrounding drug deals.
“Now somebody steals your ounce of marijuana, that’s a big deal, because that costs a lot of money. And you’re more likely to do something violent to that person than you would in the past. Where you might just get mad at them, and have a few words with them, now we’re seeing shootings and things like that over marijuana,” Cooper said.
Cooper said, “The first 14 years I was a drug prosecutor, I had one heroin prosecution. Now, you can’t go to general sessions court without seeing heroin cases on the docket,” he said.
He said the opioid epidemic has resulted in a “flood of heroin” coming from Mexico.
He also said that Mexican drug cartels are business-savvy.
“They read the papers, they watch the news, and when they see ‘Tennessee’s the No. 1 state for opioid abuse, then they know they have a client base here.”
Research by the National Institutes of Health shows most heroin addicts abused prescription pain pills before turning to heroin.
However, the pipeline of pain pills is something that can be controlled.
“The next time you go to a doctor, and the doctor says ‘I want to give you something for pain,’ tell them that you’d prefer to have something non-narcotic,” Cooper said.