Nebraskans Want Colorado to Share Cost of Prosecuting Citizens Caught with Marijuana in Nebraska

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Six states share a border with Colorado, one of the first in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana use, and one of those neighbors, Nebraska, is clamoring for Colorado to help cover the costs of prosecuting Nebraskans caught bringing pot home, where it is not legal.


In western Nebraska, the part of the state closest to Colorado, local law enforcement has noticed an increase marijuana arrests. Police and sheriffs attribute the increase to Nebraskans going over the border and buying pot in Colorado, which sells up to a quarter ounce to out-of-state residents who are 21 or older (Colorado residents can purchase up to a full ounce).


But bringing Colorado marijuana into Nebraska is not allowed under state law. This difference in the two neighboring states’ laws has upset many in Nebraska who argue Colorado should bear some of the legal costs of arresting, prosecuting and jailing Nebraskans who break the law.


Adam Hayward, the sheriff of Deuel County, whose southern border abuts Colorado, wants state lawmakers to do something. But the legislature shows no signs of getting involved, he says.


“I don't know what it will take to get someone to stand up and do something to try to get some of our money back,” Hayward told the Omaha World-Herald.


Nebraska’s attorney general, Jon Bruning, has been non-committal about suing Colorado to recover some law enforcement costs.


Some Colorado lawmakers are sympathetic to Nebraska’s plight. Rep. Amy Stephens introduced a bill that would divert surplus marijuana tax dollars into a grant program to fund the Colorado State Patrol and bordering states’ police agencies to prevent marijuana from leaving the state. “Our neighbors understand it puts a stress on their law enforcement,”' Stephens told a state House committee. “I think it only fair to work with other states to do this.”


Law enforcement officials both inside and outside of Colorado have not been supportive of the legislation. Perhaps one reason is that, other than Nebraska, Colorado’s other five neighboring states (Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) have not reported an upswing in marijuana busts.


“I've heard people saying it's becoming an epidemic, and it's certainly not,” Captain Scott Harrington of the Kansas Highway Patrol, whose troopers patrol the eastern boundary of Colorado, told USA Today. “It’s status quo. We’re just not seeing something that turns our heads.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Nebraska on Its Own with Drug Enforcement Costs Tied to Colorado Pot Sales (by David Hendee, Omaha World-Herald)

Patrolling for Pot Traffic on Colorado's Fringes (by Trevor Hughes, USA Today)

Colorado High On Marijuana Revenue—Billion-Dollar Industry To Bring State More Than $100 Million In Annual Taxes (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)


anonamouse 10 years ago
What next? Will we see abortion-permissive states sue abortion-restrictive states over the social welfare costs of unwanted children whose families move across a state line? .... At any rate, I suggest Colorado countersue Nebraska for maintaining prohibition and thus continuing to create a criminal class out of non-criminals, some of whom unfortunately will become real criminals after learning in prison how to prey on their communities when they are released, unless Nebraska agrees to prevent such persons from ever traveling to Colorado.
Inciteful 10 years ago
Practically speaking, Colorado should not plan future spending based on what may be temporary windfall tax revenue because it is the first to legalize the sale and use of cannabis. Instead of crying, "foul," Nebraska should decriminalize, if not legalize, cannabis. This solves the problem for Nebraska and keeps Colorado from over-extending funding commitments.

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