A Nebraska Sheriff’s War Against Colorado Weed Buyers

By Paul Gaita 07/10/15

Sheriff Adam Hayward has been accused of targeting Coloradans crossing into Nebraska.

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Sheriff Adam Hayward
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While status reports on the impact of marijuana legalization in the state of Colorado since 2014 have trumpeted its positive impact on tax revenue and the decreases in crime rates and traffic fatalities, another more negative side effect of the effort has received scant attention outside of state media outlets.

A report on the 2014 federal lawsuit filed by the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma against Colorado that was broadcast on the PBS Newshour in May of this year included an interview with Adam Hayward, sheriff of Deuel County, which borders the state line with Colorado.

Hayward has been the subject of numerous features in the Nebraska press about his extreme vigilance in regard to drivers entering his state with marijuana purchased from Colorado, which has resulted in numerous felony arrests.

Many believe that Hayward is profiling drivers coming from Colorado or those who possess Colorado license plates, a notion borne out by a 2014 report by Colorado’s 7News, which found that the Nebraska State Patrol pulled over more Colorado drivers in Deuel County between 2011-14 than drivers from any other state, including Nebraska.

Colorado drivers received 577 citations and 1,858 warnings or violations during that period, while Nebraska drivers received just 490 citations and 1,742 warnings and violations. During that same period, 334 Colorado drivers passing through counties around Interstate Highway 80, were issued citations for marijuana possession. Of that number, nearly one out of every two citations were for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

Hayward does not deny that these statistics have occurred in his county. According to the sheriff, his focus on Colorado drivers is due entirely to the fact that the cost to not only store confiscated marijuana but also to house and provide public defense to individuals incarcerated in Deuel County jails has skyrocketed since 2014.

Currently, 60-70% of inmates in the county’s jail system are behind bars for marijuana cases stemming from Colorado purchases. Hayward believes that the state of Colorado should shoulder the financial burden imposed on his county by these inmates. “They should be paying for these people’s attorneys and their stays in jail, because essentially, it’s a problem they created for us,” he said.

A bill introduced in 2014 by Colorado Representative Amy Stephens would have shared surplus marijuana revenue with law enforcement in bordering states was struck down during that year’s legislative session.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites. 

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