Colorado weed blamed for increasing law enforcement costs in Nebraska

Nebraska county wants Colorado to help pay

DEUEL COUNTY, Neb. - A Nebraska county sheriff is blaming Colorado's legalization of recreational weed for its increased law enforcement costs and wants the state to help foot the bill.

Adam Hayward is the sheriff in Deuel County, Nebraska, a small border town with a population of about 1,800 people. He said the county is in a prime location for people to bring Colorado weed across the border.

"We have Interstate 80 going all the way through our county and then we have about 5 miles of Interstate 76 coming up out of Colorado," Hayward explained.

Since 2011, Hayward said the county's jail budget has increased by more than $100,000.

"In big counties where the population is huge, a $100,000 increase probably isn't that much, but when basically that comes from 1,800 people, that's a big increase," he said.

Hayward blames Colorado weed for the spike.

"Now, with Amendment 64, recreational marijuana, we've seen just a huge influx of people going over and picking it up and bringing it back," Hayward further explained.

Behind the bars of what used to be the Deuel County jail sits hundreds of pounds of weed and edibles, marked as evidence, confiscated by Hayward and his three deputies. Hayward says it can all be traced back to Colorado.

"Every bit of this that's in here you can buy from a dispensary in Colorado, and every bit of this came from Colorado," Hayward said.

A 7NEWS investigation earlier this month uncovered Nebraska state troopers pulled over more Colorado drivers in Deuel County than from any other state.

Hayward said 60 to 70 percent of inmates currently being housed are related to Colorado marijuana cases.

"We have these people we arrest with felony charges, and then we have to pay for them to be in jail, we have to pay for their medical expenses while they're in jail, and we have to usually pay for their public defenders," said Hayward. "Because even though they have money to buy weed, they don't have any money to pay for an attorney and the county gets stuck paying all that."

Hayward thinks the state of Colorado should help pay for his county's increased costs.

"They should be paying for these people's attorneys and their stays in jail, because essentially it's a problem they created for us," Hayward said.

In Nebraska, marijuana is illegal and it is a felony to have any weed products that contain hash oil.  

"It's an extract, had to do a process to do it, so, therefore, it's a felony," Hayward explained.

Colorado Rep. Amy Stephens introduced a bill that would have shared surplus marijuana revenue with law enforcement in bordering states to prevent the diversion of Colorado weed out-of-state. However, the bill died is this year's legislative session.

In a statement provided to 7NEWS, Gov. John Hickenlooper's spokesman Eric Brown said the state is committed to "funding prevention and education programs that help Coloradans. Any suggestions of how to otherwise spend marijuana tax money [will] require a greater conversation with the General Assembly."

For Hayward, he is committed to keeping marijuana out of his town and said he won't give up the fight until his county runs out of funds.

"We're fighting it so hard to keep it out of our county so we don't end up with all of this in our school system, with our local people," he said.

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