The Denver Post is out with a sympathetic piece about Nebraska police and the oh so terrible situation they’re in because of the decisions they make now that Colorado has legalized weed. In an article titled, “Nebraska deals with marijuana influx from Colorado,” we’re told that the burden of policing Colorado drivers is so heavy that it is depleting resources, blowing budgets, and negatively affecting quality of life:
“The department ran through their overtime budget within six months, most of it to pay officers overtime to go to court for prosecutions…
“You know if you can smoke marijuana and walk out of court with $120 fine and nothing else that may not be as much of an impact as if you walk out of court with a $1,200 dollar fine,” Wilkinson said.
He said the strain on resources “is deteriorating a quality of life here if we don’t do something.”
Deule County Sheriff Adam Hayward complains the county is getting so many felony drug cases stemming from Colorado marijuana that it is draining resources to house those arrested in the jail and to pay defense attorneys.”
So this is the thing: Law enforcement in Colorado border states is choosing to pull over Colorado drivers with the specific intent of making marijuana busts. By now you’ve probably heard about “license plate profiling.” Many Colorado drivers are convinced they are being targeted by cops when driving in different states simply for having Colorado tags. The most reported on case happened a hop and a skip away in Idaho, when an elderly man–a retired corporate executive driving home after his daughter’s baby shower–was detained for hours at a local sheriff’s office after being accused of smuggling pot by a state trooper. A search of his truck turned up nothing, and the man is now suing the police.
But this is a chronic condition in border states. Beyond the anecdotal evidence (of which there is plenty) Denver’s ABC affiliate, 7News Denver did a little reporting in analyzing publicly available ticket and seizure data, and their investigation turned up some not-so-surprising results. Kansas and Wyoming, for example, are both tough on Colorado drivers, handing them a disproportionate number of pot-related tickets.
But Nebraska is the worst. The report looked specifically at a recent three-year period in Deuel County, the county that borders Colorado at Interstate 80. Not only were Colorado drivers more likely to be issued weed citations, but Colorado drivers were more likely to be pulled over period. More from 7 News:
In that same time period, almost half of all Colorado stops resulted in a marijuana bust. Half! So either Colorado drivers are more prominent on Nebraska highways than actual Nebraskans, or drive considerably worse than Nebraskans, or (most likely) they are being singled out by local cops who are pretty sure they are traveling with weed. We don’t even know for sure that their is a “marijuana influx.” All we know is Nebraska law enforcement is looking for marijuana busts.
And then complaining about it.
Well, small town Nebraska police departments, I have a solution to ALL of your problems. You’re not the DEA. You’re not a border patrol. You are local law enforcement. If you see somebody smoking weed in their car, or driving 90 miles per hour with a gravity bong poking out the sunroof, then by all means go for it: Chase them down, search their shit, put them in jail. Especially if there’s a baby in the car. But if you don’t want to deal with expensive overtime you can’t afford and outrageous attorney fees; if the expense of pulling people over and processing them for simple possession charges is ruining your town’s quality of life…stop pulling people over when they’ve done nothing to warrant a stop other than driving with a green license plate.