By now, almost everyone in Nebraska is aware that Colorado’s marijuana laws are draining the state’s budget. After Colorado legalized the purchase of marijuana by adults, there has been a huge wave of marijuana busts that have occurred in its aftermath.
“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.”
In fact, the amount of adults caught crossing the border with marijuana has reached an all-time high. Police are now catching a year’s worth of misdemeanor violators in just four months. Hayward goes onto say, “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. 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.”
Though one might find officer Hayward’s comments rather amusing, considering there is literally nowhere in the country to find a $60 criminal defense lawyer (seeing as how by law a Nebraska adult can only purchase a quarter ounce at any Colorado pot shop), it still does not sooth the hypocrisy of the legalization of other, more dangerous substances.
For example, the tiny town of Whiteclay, Nebraska, only has a population of 10 residents, yet it has the greatest beer sales per capita of any other U.S. town. Whiteclay has four off-sale beer stores that sold 3.6 million cans of beer, or almost 10,000 cans of beer a day (Nebraska and Oklahoma Are Suing Colorado Over Legal Weed, 2014). How is that possible?
It’s possible because Whiteclay is located close to the border of South Dakota, near the Oglala Sioux (Lakota) Indian Nation on the Pine Ridge Reservation. This is where the plot thickens: Pine Ridge is 100% alcohol free, maintaining a prohibition on sales and possession since 1889. The reason? In the early stages of the town’s formation, illegal whisky peddlers had been pushing alcohol on the tribe for many years. In an attempt to try and save the nation, Congress created a dry buffer zone, which also happened to include Whiteclay as part of the reservation.
In 1904, however, liquor lobbyists successfully convinced President Teddy Roosevelt to open up 49 of the 50 square miles to a land grab by settlers. This was in direct protest to the Lakota and the federal Indian Agent who was given control over Pine Ridge. As a result, Whiteclay became bootlegger central. Bootleggers made a killing by selling alcohol to the Lakota. By the 1950, two bars became licensed in Whiteclay, and four alcohol stores have opened for business.
Even though Lakota activists have repeatedly tried to reverse Roosevelt’s decision, their attempts have been shot down. Dave Heineman, the governor, has even expressed that there is simply nothing to be done, since the vast majority of customers come from South Dakota. Though he could direct Nebraska’s state liquor licensing officials to no longer license off-sales beer stores, he refuses to do so. Could it be that the state is pulling in roughly $350,000 to $400,000 a year in alcohol taxes from Whiteclay alone, instead of caring about those suffering in the next town over? After all, Pine Ridge is a reservation desolated by alcohol, with an estimated 80% of their households affected by alcoholism, and 60 percent of individuals and one quarter of the babies born suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome (Nebraska and Oklahoma Are Suing Colorado Over Legal Weed, 2014).
The point is not to reinstate prohibition on alcohol, but to demonstrate how it always fails. Nebraska shouldn’t be allowed to complain about Colorado’s marijuana laws causing their state to tailspin into debt while openly and unapologetically profiting from the Lakota Nation’s alcohol prohibition. To make matters worse, all the domestic violence, dangerous roads, cirrhosis of the liver, and birth defects caused by Colorado’s marijuana laws couldn’t hold a candle to the four beer stores in Whiteclay.
Nebraska and Oklahoma Are Suing Colorado Over Legal Weed. (2014, December). Retrieved from Rooster.