A new study by the University of Nebraska at Omaha found marijuana-related arrests in the western counties of Nebraska at an all-time high after pot became legal in the neighboring state of Colorado. Sheriffs and prosecutors released reports stating that since Colorado made weed legal, more people have been arrested and convicted for weed-related charges, the study affirms that.
Though, the researchers went on to say that they couldn’t conclude whether the rise in arrests was direct as a result of the changed laws of Colorado. Increased enforcement efforts by Nebraskan authorities could as well be a contributing issue, they said
The study showed that Nebraska’s marijuana-related arrests shot to an eyebrow-raising 11 percent between 2013 and 2014 when weed was legalized in Colorado. Nebraska also spent an estimate of $10.2 million in marijuana drug enforcement, an increase of 11 percent in the previous year.
The study found out that counties on the western front that are along the Nebraska-Colorado border had the highest number of arrests in the state in the year 2004. This was more so in the Nebraska Panhandle region extending along the interstate 80 corridor.
Ryan Spohn, director of UNO’s Center for Justice Research, expressed his thoughts claiming that the decisions, as well as the enforcements by the local law enforcement agencies, played a very contributing factor to the increased numbers of these arrests.
He continued to state that if the Colorado’s policy changes were the only reason for it, the arrests data in these western counties were to be consistent, but that wasn’t the case in Deuel and Banner counties. Researchers found an irregular pattern in the western counties arrests.
Banner County bordering Wyoming experienced the highest increase in the marijuana-related arrests going from under 4 percent to an average of more than 22 percent.
Deuel County, which was the state highest rate holder in marijuana arrests, recorded a fall in the rate of these arrests from 32 percent to 24 percent considering Interstate 76 comes through Colorado to the county. Despite the decrease in the number of arrests, Deuel County still holds the tag of having the highest all rates of Marijuana-related arrests in Nebraska.
Spohn later said that it was beyond doubt that there were some observable impacts of the legalization of weed in the neighboring state.
The charges on marijuana sale and possession have increased over the period mostly being the possession charges as found by the research. The possession charges were stable before Colorado made the move, but now it is at a peak six-year high in 2014. Well, the weed sale arrests had initially been declining before they started increasing in 2014, with a higher margin of this increase from the border counties that was at an alarming 39 percent from 2013 to 2014.
The study comes as a follow-up of a report that was released in 2015 that was an examination of the effects on Nebraska of Colorado legalizing medical marijuana in 2000.
Nebraska officials have for a while tried tirelessly to stop the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado but no substantial outcome has yet been reported. Earlier in the year, the U.S Supreme Court neglected a case presented to it by Nebraska and Oklahoma attorneys accusing Colorado of violating the individual states off their “unique, sovereign interests” in preventing the pot from penetrating within their borders.
The Nebraska’s Attorney General, Doug Peterson, through his spokeswoman, said that he had read the UNO report and would continue to track the findings of these researchers. Peterson is of the belief that Colorado’s policy changes are responsible for the increased use of marijuana in the state of Nebraska with citation to a study by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. This study found that traffic stop seizures of marijuana in Colorado by the police outside the state had recorded an increase to 37 percent after the legalization with 21 seizure incidences in Nebraska.
Will weed stand a chance 2018 ballot in Nebraska
Weed possession for any amount that is less than an ounce is decriminalized in Nebraska, and would be an infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $300. Anything that exceeds an ounce would lead to prison, fines or both. Seems Nebraskans are tired of envying their weeded western neighbors, Colorado, so some groups have started pushing for the complete elimination of penalties for possession of small quantities. These groups are pushing hard for voters to have a say come ballot 2018.
Another group on the side is seeking for a much wider amendment that would see pot entirely legal on all accounts filed 2018 petition language with the office of Nebraska Secretary of State.
This petition would give voters the chance to eliminate the penalties for individuals that are in possession of an ounce of weed or less while making it really tough for individuals or dealers that are in possession of greater supply quantities of the drug.
On the contrary, Peterson opposed to the initiative stating that legalizing anything would be wrong, he also went on to state that legalizing less than an ounce would send a ‘wrong message’ that indicated weed is harmless.
Mark Elworth Jr,40, a perennial candidate from Omaha, has a long history of smoking pot; since he was 13. He has been the key campaigner of this initiative, calls the petition an “emergency” that the Nebraskan voters should be left to decide on, making Nebraskan lawmakers come up with programs that accommodate formally medical or recreational marijuana.
Mr. Elworth backs other petitions like for instance; the states needs to recognize three political parties; Green Party, Veterans Party of Nebraska and Legal Marijuana Now. These parties should be able to nominate candidates as soon as the 2018 ballot comes along.
Supporters of this petition opt to have collected 15,000 to 20,000 signatures by the time the year elapses. They eye for an even greater number of signatures next year and they might opt to even hire paid canvassers if they receive some funding.