Colorado’s monthly marijuana sales tax report for August was released at the beginning of this month and indicated yet another month of growth. Marijuana purchases in August totaled more than $60 Million, but some of those purchases aren’t staying in Colorado. The issue has become frustrating for Nebraska cities bordering the Colorado state line.
In the small town of Sidney Nebraska, population 7,000, police are facing a 100% increase in marijuana arrests between 2013 and 2014. Sidney Police Chief BJ Wilkinson says that 50% of traffic stops result in a marijuana arrest. It’s not just affecting Sidney though, all of Cheyennne County has been afflicted by the abundance of legal marijuana just 10 miles away. “It has affected on the budget side just because on the jail side we’ve had an increase of people,” said Cheyenne County Sheriff, John Jensen. Cheyenne county saw just 15 marijuana related arrests in 2009. Those numbers surged to 60 arrests in 2013 and the trend is likely to continue upwards as access to the plant just became a whole lot easier.
Local law enforcement officers site jailing costs, public defenders, and police overtime as some of the biggest expenses that come as a result of this influx of marijuana. Authorities are looking for stiffer penalties to discourage residents from bringing cannabis back across state lines. “You know if you can smoke marijuana and walk out of court with 120 dollars fine and nothing else that may not be as much of an impact if you walk out of court with a 1,200 dollar fine,” said Sidney Police Chief BJ Wilkinson.
However, stronger penalties may not do enough to restrict residents from possessing and consuming a plant that is perfectly legal just a stone’s throw away in Colorado. Perhaps it’s time for law enforcement to consider ballot initiatives to decriminalize the drug like some major cities in Texas have done. Until then, it is unlikely that Nebraska residents will quit smoking or find a better place to access safe, regulated, and taxed marijuana.