Missouri Patrol Finding Record Drug Shipments

Interstate 44 has long been known as a major route for drug trafficking, and Missouri officials have seized a bonanza of marijuana this year.

Through May 6, more than 19,000 pounds of the drug was found by Troop D of the state highway patrol's Strafford weigh station. That figure exceeds the total amount confiscated over the last four years.

"I can't believe the amount of drugs we're finding," said David Brooks, the supervisor of the weigh station and a truck inspector with the patrol for more than 20 years. "But the thing I think about every day is how much are we missing? It kind of makes you feel we're just hitting the tip of the iceberg."

Dick Thomas, who heads the Troop D Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit, said the growing number of intercepted marijuana shipments is due to better training for officers.

Thomas said his unit's main goal is safety, but the search for marijuana and other drugs is high on inspectors' checklist.

"We're looking for it every time," he said.

Investigators say it's not uncommon for legitimate truckers to be recruited into shipping drugs while waiting for their next load at truck stops.

With payoffs as high as $15,000, "the temptation is huge," said vehicle inspector Mike Garcia.