A news station in Omaha, Nebraska, ran a story entitled “Colorado's marijuana sales draining Nebraska budget.” It seems that since neighboring Colorado legalized marijuana for adults 21 and over, the cops in Nebraska have been busting so many adults coming across the border with Colorado weed they can’t afford to bust, jail and try them all.
Break out the world’s tiniest violin, we’re about to hear some sob stories from police.
“We have had a significant increase in the amount of cases and incidences with marijuana coming across from Colorado,” said Deuel County, Nebraska, Sheriff Adam Hayward. “One in every five cars, we are now finding something in there.”
So many adults are crossing the border with weed the sheriff explains they’ve caught a year’s worth of misdemeanor violators in just four months. “We are paying for them to be housed. We are paying for them to be fed. We are paying for their medical expenses, which a lot of them do have,” Hayward said. “And then a lot of them, even though they have money to buy drugs, they don't have money to pay for an attorney. Therefore, the county has to pay for the public defender."
Seeing as a Nebraskan adult by law could only buy a quarter ounce at a Colorado pot shop and that might cost 50 or 60 bucks with tax, I’m wondering where Sheriff Hayward thinks the $60 defense attorneys are? Anyway, boo hoo, busting adults with personal amounts of marijuana is busting your county law enforcement budget? Cry me a river.
Meanwhile, have you ever heard of the tiny town of Whiteclay, Nebraska, population 10? It holds the distinction of being the US town with the greatest beer sales per capita of any American town. This town of 10 has four licensed off-sale beer stores that sold 3.6 million cans of beer in 2013, or almost 10,000 cans of beer per day.
How is that possible? Well, Whiteclay, you see, lies on the northern Nebraska border with South Dakota, where it directly abuts the Oglala Sioux (Lakota) Indian Nation on the Pine Ridge Reservation. And Pine Ridge has maintained absolute alcohol prohibition -- sale and possession -- since its creation in 1889 (except for a brief time in the 1970s). Illegal whiskey peddlers had already been pushing alcohol to the Lakota for years and alcoholism was devastating the nation. President Arthur in 1882 designated a 50-square-mile extension south of Pine Ridge into Nebraska and in 1889, Congress included that dry buffer zone, which encompassed Whiteclay, as part of the reservation.
But in 1904, liquor lobbyists convinced President Teddy Roosevelt to use an Executive Order to open up 49 of those 50 square miles to a land grab by white settlers, over the protests of the Lakota elders and the federal Indian Agent charged with oversight of Pine Ridge. Soon, Whiteclay became the home of bootleggers serving the Lakota who could easily walk across the border to get some liquor. By the 1950s, Nebraska licensed two bars in Whiteclay and since the 1970s, Nebraska has licensed four businesses in this town of 10 to sell beer to be taken off site. Those businesses have repeatedly been found to be selling to minors and bootleggers and allowing onsite consumption.
Lakota activists have repeatedly called on president after president to reverse Roosevelt’s Executive Order, which many think isn’t technically legal in the first place, but to no avail. The governor of Nebraska, David Heineman, has said there’s nothing he can do about it, since most of the people purchasing Whiteclay’s alcohol are from South Dakota. Oh, sure, I suppose he could direct his state liquor licensing officials to no longer license off-sales beer stores in, oh, I don’t know, towns with more alcoholics passed out in the streets in the morning than actual residents. But then the state wouldn’t pull in roughly $350,000 to $400,000 a year in alcohol taxes from Whiteclay alone.
As for the Lakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation, alcoholism affects an estimated 80 percent of their households, 60 percent of individuals, and nearly one quarter of babies born suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome.
This is not a call for support of alcohol prohibition; if anything, Whiteclay demonstrates how prohibition always fails. Pine Ridge last year narrowly voted in favor of ending alcohol prohibition, though the vote is tied up in an injunction right now over election questions. But Nebraska can’t complain that Colorado is messing up their marijuana prohibition while Nebraska is openly flouting the Lakota Nation’s alcohol prohibition. Besides, unlike a beer store in Whiteclay, some pot shop selling on the Colorado / Nebraska border isn’t fostering domestic violence, dangerous roads, cirrhosis of the liver, and birth defects.
"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of The Russ Belville Show.