■ Perkins County officials seeing effects of Colorado marijuana law. PAGE 14.
By Tim Linscott
Grant Tribune Sentinel
Sheriff: Chase County not seeing big uptick in drug cases (yet)
In describing the amount of large drug busts Deuel County has seen since Colorado law has legalized marijuana, Deuel County Sheriff Adam Haywood used the word “exponentially.”
In 2013, Deuel County, whose county seat is Chappell and includes a stretch of I-80, had 30 felony marijuana cases stemming from marijuana coming from Colorado.
In March 2014, there were already 22 cases. By mid-June Deuel County had equaled last year’s total number of cases.
“In only three months we almost matched an entire year of felony cases,” Haywood said.
Haywood notes that he is witnessing more people from Nebraska buying large quantities in Colorado to come back and distribute.
“We aren’t doing anything different in enforcement, we are going out there and enforcing traffic laws,” Haywood said, explaining that there was a time he would spend most of a day patrolling the interstate and would not find a single drug situation.
“Now in a few hours we will find several. You can’t help but run into it,” he said.
With only four deputies and limited financial resources, Haywood said he knows there are large amounts of marijuana likely coming through his county from Colorado daily.
“We’re probably barely scraping the tip of the iceberg to what is out there,” Haywood said.
He has observed that many of the people stopped for small amounts of marijuana are personal users or heading to a rural area, but larger amounts are most likely heading to cities like Grand Island or Lincoln.
“People with 50 to 100 pounds are going to metro areas. Those with three to five pounds are likely in rural areas, and metro, too, for that matter,” Haywood said, explaining simply that marijuana is now “everywhere.”
The amount of misdemeanor cases of possession of marijuana, less than one ounce, has remained about the same from last year, according to Haywood, but the blatant disregard for Nebraska law by Colorado residents has been surprising to him.
“We stop people with their drug paraphernalia pretty much out in the open and will say they have a medical (marijuana) card. I think it isn’t that they aren’t aware it is illegal here, I think they just don’t care,” Haywood said. “I think they know if they get caught with less than an ounce it is a ticket and they are on their way.”
Deuel County has seen a significant increase in DUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs) cases since Amendment 64 in Colorado was passed in 2012.
Haywood reports that in 2013 there were more DUID cases in his county than DUI cases involving alcohol. To combat the issue, Haywood and his deputies took special training in handling a DUID.
“People are using marijuana and transporting it at the same time,” Haywood said. A major concern Haywood has about the Colorado marijuana law is the impact on young adults and children.
He explains that at some dispensaries in Colorado several food products with cannabis or hash oils are sold. Everything from candy to ordinary looking food items are available, with new options daily.
“Kids could be at home or in school consuming this stuff and no one would know,” Haywood said.
Because of his training, Haywood has been giving presentations to community groups and school districts in the region on what to look for and how to detect these seemingly ordinary food items containing marijuana.
“Now it is not all buds and leaves, it is everyday food items and there is something new every single day,” Haywood said.
One dispensary online offers bars, cookies and chocolates in packaging similar to gum and even “sugar free” items. Many dispensaries include e-cigarette (electronic vapor cigarette devices) with refills that include hash oil.
Haywood explains this, too, has become popular with younger people because there is virtually no smell. He and his deputies have been vigilant in looking for ways to combat this issue.
Chase County Sheriff Kevin Mueller has not seen an increase in DUID cases since the laws in Colorado changed in January. However, he has seen more people stopped for small amounts of personal use marijuana.
“As time goes on, I can see this will become more apparent here,” Mueller said, adding that the summer months mean more people traveling on vacation and he feels his department will have to deal with the issue of more people with small amounts of marijuana traveling through Chase County.
He’d like to see more bite in the laws for people carrying small amounts of marijuana.
“The laws in Nebraska tend to be not as strict as they should be, in my opinion. Alcohol misuse is pretty severe but with marijuana it is a fine and they move on,” Mueller said.
The attitude of many Colorado citizens carrying marijuana in Chase County has been nonchalant, according to Mueller.
“Just because they have a medical card or it is legal in Colorado, they think we should accept it in Nebraska,” Mueller said. “They are never too happy to get a citation.”