The State of Colorado passed Amendment 20 in 2000 and Amendment 64 in 2012, legalizing the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana. Meanwhile, possession of marijuana for any reason remains illegal for the residents of Nebraska. Nebraska residents, however, have felt the impact of Colorado’s new laws. There has been much speculation, in fact, about the extent of the impact that Colorado’s legalization has had, and will have in the future, on Nebraska. Law enforcement agencies in Nebraska border counties have reported increases in arrests and jail admissions for marijuana-related offenses since the passage of Amendments 20 and 64. What else has changed? What can Nebraska expect in the near future? Omaha criminal defense lawyer Tom Petersen discusses the impact of legalization in Colorado for Nebraska residents.
The University of Nebraska Study
It is easy to speculate on the impact of Colorado’s legalization. It is also easy to get caught up in the media’s interpretation of events; however, neither of those approaches really tell us the truth about how Colorado’s legalization of marijuana has impacted Nebraska residents. A recent study conducted by the University of Nebraska, however, may shed some light on the subject.
The study compared trends in marijuana-related criminal justice activity among county agencies following the enactment of both Amendments. Border county arrests, jail admissions, and associated costs of incarceration were compared to two other county groups, those that contain Interstate I-80 as a major transportation route, and a “control group” comprised of the remaining counties in the state of Nebraska from 2000 through 2013. The reason for the three chosen groups is based on the widely held belief that Nebraska border counties have been hit hardest by Colorado’s legalization of marijuana and that counties along the I-80 corridor have also experienced an increase in marijuana traffic since Colorado’s legalization. The question for researchers was – is that widely held belief correct?
The Study Findings
The findings of the University of Nebraska study were, for the most part, not surprising. With regard to arrests for possession, however, were interesting. During the time frame in question, arrests for possession of marijuana in border counties increased 145 percent compared to an increase of just 46 percent in non-border counties. Along the I-80 corridor, however, arrests for possession actually decreased by three percent.
During the same time period, arrests for the sale of marijuana increased a staggering 850 percent in counties bordering Colorado! Compare that to a decrease of almost 22 percent for non-border counties and an increase of 19 percent for counties along the I-80 corridor and the figure is even more startling.
The study also compared marijuana related jail admissions to non-marijuana related jail admissions during the time period. In border counties, marijuana related jail admissions increased by 315 percent while non-marijuana related jail admissions only increased by eight percent. For non-border counties, marijuana related jail admission decreased by just over one percent and non-marijuana related jail admissions increased by seven percent. Marijuana related jail admissions in counties along I-80 also increased by 17 percent while non-marijuana elated jail admission in the same counties only increased by one percent.
The financial impact on Nebraska’s legal system was also studied by comparing the estimated dollars spent on incarceration of marijuana offenders. In border counties, there was a 1045 percent increase in dollars spent to incarcerate marijuana offenders compared to a 15 percent overall increase in non-border counties and a decrease of five percent in I-80 counties.
Based on the findings of the University of Nebraska study it seems apparent that Colorado’s legalization of marijuana has definitely had an impact on Nebraska’s legal system.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney right away. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.