DECATUR, Texas -- A new year has brought a sudden change for law enforcement patrolling Highway 287 through Wise County.
Sheriff Lane Akin said about 1,000 pounds of high-quality marijuana was seized during the past five weeks in a series of drug-trafficking busts.
The street value of the weed seizures adds up to an estimated street value of some $3.5 million. "This is something that's really abnormal for us and quite surprising," Akin said on Tuesday.
While his men and women have been nabbing drug traffickers for years, the longtime lawman said they're seeing a market shift as more potent marijuana varietals emerge from places like California and Colorado, where it's now legal.
"Meth prices have gone down and marijuana prices have gone sky high," said Akin.
The biggest example came about three weeks ago, when a young deputy pulled over an RV that was heading toward Dallas.
Before the traffic stop was over, investigators had recovered more than 670 pounds of pot.
"They had them stored in 50 to 60 shopping bags in the motor home," says Akin. "As far as I know, that's the biggest marijuana bust that has been made in Wise County."
In another recent traffic stop, an alert deputy seized on more than 100 pounds of the stuff hidden in a rental car bound for Florida.
"I've been talking to other law enforcement on 287. They've noticed it, too," said Akin. "We've got our state troopers and local police too."
Most of the accused traffickers post bond within a day or two.
Akin said they're working with federal officials to come claim some of the illegal haul, to help shore up some space in their evidence facility.