Special Report: The changing dynamic of marijuana in Nebraska

Published: Apr. 13, 2016 at 8:41 PM CDT
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The start of 2016 has been a historic and incredibly busy time for Nebraska law enforcement following two of the single-largest drug-related busts in Lancaster County history.

Now, local law enforcement agencies are weighing a few possibilities - either more drugs are passing through the state, law enforcement techniques are becoming more refined, or it is a combination of both.

The search for answers begins in early January 2016, when the Lancaster County Sheriff's office pulled over a vehicle carrying 1,500 lbs. of marijuana - their largest pot bust ever.

Then, in February, deputies said they made their single-largest drug-related bust in county history - $2.4 million.

Area agencies also said marijuana is now more potent than ever, and their strategies of finding it have had to be just as dynamic.

So, unraveling the spider web of where these drugs and cash could have gone, and to whom, is one of the biggest challenges.

"We've evolved in this process," Chief Deputy Jeff Bliemeister, of the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office, said.

"Since 2013, in that we have a huge emphasis on the electronic evidence."

The cell phone, tablet and computer. These devices have helped create links to suspects and their products across the nation.

"In 1996, when I started, people didn't carry cell phones as a matter of routine," Bliemeister said.

"They carried pagers. And it was just the beginning of that process."

The story is similar in western Nebraska.

"I guess it's made it easier and harder," Sgt. Kendall Allison, who works for the North Platte Police Department, said.

"It's made it easier to obtain information, but it's harder... like I said, they have burner phones, TracFones, they change their numbers."

Sgt. Allison said their department faces a considerable trafficking problem with Colorado - where pot is legal - and that they've even seen some unique new delivery methods.

"We've seen it delivered in the mail," Sgt. Allison said, "so, somebody that's friends with somebody in Colorado can get a pound of it from the dispensary."

Sgt. Allison, when asked if he thinks more drugs are passing through the state or if law enforcement is improving their abilities to track it down, said it is a mixture of both.

"We have better tools than we used to let's say 30 years ago, 20-30 years ago, to deal with it," Allison said.

However, he also said North Platte also has a significant methamphetamine problem, and that marijuana can sometimes take a back seat to meth.

As for the bags of pot and millions of dollars confiscated in Lancaster County earlier this year, it's just a matter of proving where it came from and where it was going.

"We do not, in any way, want to take somebody's savings or something that they've gotten through legal means," Bliemeister said.

"And we make sure to prove that."


LSO's interdiction team, which investigates the trade and transport of drugs in the state, is made up of only a couple deputies, according to Bliemeister. And, since 2013, they've investigated 122 cases of criminal interdiction in the county alone.