Nebraska cops still pissed about Colorado legalizing marijuana are pushing for increased monetary penalties for cannabis possession as well as increased funding to pay for the overtime they are all milking. Police Chief B.J. Wilkinson of Sidney, Nebraska (population 7,000) says he’s written more marijuana tickets in five months than he did in all of last year. “Five out of every ten” stops results in a marijuana arrests, he says. They’ve already run through their yearly allotment of overtime pay to pay for cops to go to court for the marijuana cases. It’s “deteriorating a quality of life here” in his town, he says.
We bet. Your cops are too busy shooting fish in barrels to deal with any actual crime in their town.
Here’s something to consider: Nebraska border town cops have stepped up their enforcement and have busted more people simply because they know they can do it and make the overtime pay for simply going and sitting in court. They could have been doing these pot-based patrols for the last ten years before Colorado legalized pot and still come up with similar results, but they are using the guise of Colorado’s legalization to justify their greed. They bust people for having even the smallest amount of pot, which may only result in a $150 fine but has clearly become a cash-cow for the cops.
Wilkinson said this week that he wants to increase the $150 fine to $1,500 as a deterrent. He has to know it won’t. People will always smoke herb. No, he wants it because it would bring in ten times the revenue.
Nebraska state senator Ken Schilz said earlier this year that he will carry legislation in the upcoming session to increase penalties for those caught with small amounts of marijuana. In other words: If you’re bringing pot across state lines for your own personal use, the state should save you from yourself by arresting you and making you a criminal.
State senator Al Davis said he would sponsor legislation in the coming session to deal with the funding issues, but added that he wanted to move forward with some caution, noting that increasing penalties could cause tremendous damage over what could amount to personal amounts of herb. “Are we ruining people’s lives who are really going to be good people down the road? I don’t think any of us want to do that,” he told the Omaha World-Herald after the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting. “I’d like to find a middle ground to send a message to people that Nebraska’s not a marijuana-friendly state, but not destroy somebody’s life. When I hear that people might have a felony for a marijuana brownie, I’m not sure I want to do that to anybody.”
Currently, possession of up to an ounce of cannabis is a civil infraction in Nebraska that carries up to $300 in fines. Subsequent offenses for those amounts can land offenders in jail for a week. Have more than an ounce but less than a pound and you’re looking at three months in jail and $500 in fines. More than a pound is felony territory, with up to five years and $10,000 in fines. Sales of any amount bring felony charges with a mandatory year in jail all the way up to fifty years in the slammer and $50,000 in fines if you’re caught selling near a school. Possessing any amount of hash or concentrates is a felony, with penalties of up to twenty years in jail and $25,000 in fines depending on how much you’ve got and if cops determine that you’re possessing with intent to distribute.