LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson on Tuesday defended a state lawsuit against legalized marijuana in Colorado, saying he will go forward with the suit filed by his predecessor weeks before Peterson took office.
The new Republican attorney general said in a four-page statement that the decision by Colorado voters will cause long-term harm to Nebraskans.
Peterson’s predecessor, Republican Jon Bruning, announced last month that Nebraska and Oklahoma were asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Colorado’s decision to allow recreational marijuana.
Colorado officials have vowed to fight what they call a meritless lawsuit. Bruning framed it as a public-safety issue, though the complaint offered little data to support its claim that Colorado pot is pouring into neighboring states.
“It is not Nebraska’s position to stand idle and watch Colorado’s failed experiment as it spills over to our state,” said Peterson, who took office earlier this month. “One of government’s primary purposes is to protect its citizens from known harm. There is no question that Colorado’s marijuana practices have and will continue to harm Nebraskans and thus it is incumbent upon Nebraska to take action.”
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A spokeswoman for Peterson said the “vast majority” of marijuana seized by the Nebraska State Patrol in the last year was trafficked from Colorado, based on their office’s review of field reports. Exact numbers weren’t available.
Peterson said he views the drug as a major risk for Nebraska youth. He pointed to a 2009 study in the Lancet, a British medical journal, which reported that one in six adolescents aged 13 to 19 who try marijuana will become addicted once they try it.
Bruning and several county sheriffs argued last month that Colorado’s decision has increased the workload and expenses for local law enforcement in western Nebraska. Deuel County Sheriff Adam Hayward said his county has diverted more time and money into drug sting operations to try to keep marijuana out of his jurisdiction.
Keith County Attorney Randy Fair told a legislative committee in September that law enforcement issued 46 marijuana citations in 2012, 62 last year and 126 at that point in 2014. Fair said the county didn’t have its own certified drug dog and had to borrow one from neighboring Lincoln County.
There’s no way to know exactly how much legal pot is leaving Colorado. But the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area stated in a recent report that the amount of Colorado pot seized on highways increased from 2,763 pounds between 2005 and 2008 to 3,690 pounds from 2009 to 2013.
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