LINCOLN — Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson urged the state to stand firm against the legalization of recreational marijuana, citing concern for the health of young people and public safety of all Nebraskans.
With recreational use of marijuana now legal in neighboring Colorado and three other states, Peterson said Tuesday there’s no doubt those pushing the legalization and commercialization of marijuana won’t stop there. They will be pushing “the Colorado model’’ across the country, he said.
Can You Believe Doug Peterson Said This:
“What would it look like if we just gave in on this battle? That’s concerning to me,” Peterson said. “The industry will make billions of dollars, they will do it on the backs of our young people, and we will have to deal with the consequences.”
Peterson made his comments Tuesday during a summit of law enforcement and public safety officials on drugged driving.
Speakers at the Nebraska Drugged Driving Summit said drivers under the influence of drugs have become a growing safety concern, both due to relaxed laws on marijuana and increasing use of legal prescription drugs. In addition to the four states that have legalized recreational marijuana, nearly two dozen others have approved medical use of marijuana to treat chronic pain and a variety of other ailments.
Rose White of AAA Nebraska said the daylong summit was intended to raise awareness of the growing involvement of drugs, other than alcohol, in motor vehicle crashes. The event also dealt with some of the latest approaches to dealing with drugged drivers.
Much talk at the conference concerned Colorado’s recent decision to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Two of the speakers at the summit — a retired judge and a highway safety official — came from Colorado.
During a panel discussion, Peterson said there’s no doubt Colorado’s marijuana law is having significant negative impacts in Nebraska.
Law enforcement officials are seeing marijuana, sold legally in Colorado, cross the border into Nebraska, including edibles laced with the drug. Peterson said that Colorado marijuana is also four to five times stronger than that typically seen in Nebraska, “creating all kinds of impairment issues.”
Colorado’s law also sends a message to young people in Nebraska, Peterson said: “It’s legal in Colorado, so what’s the big deal?”
Peterson said he’s convinced marijuana has significant long-term negative impacts on young people. He cited a recent university study by Harvard and Northwestern that found regular marijuana use among 17- to 22-year-olds produced significant changes in parts of the brain involved in concentration, motivation and attention.
Peterson said he thinks Nebraska is taking the right path with its slow, cautious approach to loosening regulation of the drug. The Legislature last year passed a law that allows the University of Nebraska Medical Center to conduct a federally-approved study on the use of hemp oil extract for patients with severe seizure disorders.
Peterson is also continuing to push the lawsuit filed by his predecessor last year seeking to stop the legal sales of marijuana in Colorado. Nebraska and Oklahoma argue in the lawsuit that the Colorado law is superseded by federal law, which continues to classify marijuana as illegal.
The case is still pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Peterson said his hope is that the lawsuit will “put a stop to this industry.”