Nebraska Sheriff Explains His Focus on Colorado Pot: "We Don't Have a Choice"

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In recent years, we've published several posts featuring Deuel County, Nebraska Sheriff Adam Hayward.

Why? Hayward is among the Nebraska badge-wearers most devoted to busting people who bring Colorado marijuana into his state  —and he's a prime target of those who feel Colorado drivers are being profiled when they cross state lines.

Now, in a new PBS report, Hayward defends his efforts by pointing to the statutes he's been tasked with enforcing. In his words, "It’s still illegal here. We don’t have a choice. We have to enforce the law."

Hayward's inaugural mention in Westword came in an April 2014 item on the topic of Nebraska officials, including Hayward, who believe Colorado should provide extra money to cross-border municipalities forced to deal with an influx of cannabis.

In an interview with the Omaha World-Herald, Hayward said, "I don't know what it will take to get someone to stand up and do something to try to get some of our money back."

He popped up again in June 2014 post about the opening of Sedgwick Alternative Relief, whose website touts it as the "first dispensary in Colorado" — and that's certainly true for Deuel County residents. The shop is just across the state line from Hayward's jurisdiction, and in an interview with USA Today, he didn't sound happy about it.

"He's probably going to be the busiest guy in Colorado," Hayward said about the center's owner. "For people coming in from the east, he's basically cornering the market, cutting four hours off a trip because they don't have to go to Denver."

Such concerns were driving forces behind a lawsuit filed by Nebraska and Oklahoma over Colorado's pot laws.

When PBS journalist Alison Stewart wanted to get an inside look at the arguments in favor of the suit, she naturally reached out to Hayward — and he was happy to oblige. In the report, he can be seen showing her 75 pounds worth of pot seized following a single traffic stop.

"What did he get pulled over for?" Stewart asks.

"Speeding," Hayward answers.

The report doesn't mention by how much this particular driver had allegedly exceeded the speed limit. However, a Colorado driver who was pulled over in Nebraska and subjected to a two-hour search in the presence of his kids back in 2013 said he'd been going 67 in a 65 zone.

No, the latter driver didn't have any marijuana on him. But according to Hayward, plenty of other people do. He tells Stewart that earlier this year, his personnel were handling five pot cases per week.

Stewart notes that some Nebraska legislators want to change their state's marijuana laws in response to what's happening in Colorado, with some preferring legalization and others suggesting that the measures should be made even tougher in order to act as a deterrent.

She also quizzes a Nebraskan who uses marijuana for chronic pain and is frustrated that he's put in the position of breaking the law in order to get some relief. Hayward, though, isn't sympathetic.

"It’s legal over there," he says. "That’s fine. If you wanna buy it over there, use it over there. Don’t come back here with it because it’s illegal."

Here's the PBS report.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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