FERGUS FALLS, Minn. - Interstate 94 is a gateway between Minnesota and the great west for those seeking wide open spaces.
It also appears to be a popular conduit for those seeking to traffic drugs.
The Minnesota State Patrol says troopers have confiscated hundreds of pounds of marijuana in the past few weeks, discovering the drugs following traffic stops.
The most recent bust took place February 9 in Otter Tail County after a trooper pulled a motorist over for an obstructed license plate. Inside the vehicle in plain sight the trooper could see bags of pot on the center console and on a seat, with a woman sitting on them. The stash turned out to total 300 pounds of marijuana.
On January 26 a trooper pulled a driver over on I-94, also in Otter Tail County, and recognized signs of criminal activity. He deployed a K-9 dog named Argo who discovered approximately 200 pounds of marijuana with a street value of $600,000.
Two days earlier, on January 24, a trooper pulled over a motorist in a rental vehicle who was speeding near Alexandria. Unusual behavior by the suspect resulted in a K-9 being called in, and the dog (named Renzo) located 24 pounds of marijuana and $8,200 in cash.
The recent spike in marijuana busts seems to be part of a trend: In 2017 the State Patrol seized 2,642 pounds of marijuana, up from 389 in 2016. North Dakota authorities have also seen a recent jump in large scale drug busts on the I-94 corridor.
State troopers are also seizing more heroin and meth on Minnesota highways.
In 2017, they seized 160 pounds of meth, nearly three times more than they found in 2016.
Troopers also seized 14.1 pounds of heroin last year, compared to the 0.49 pounds the year before.