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Scotts Bluff County Attorney: ‘We have higher priorities than cracking down on an oil that doesn’t have any THC’

January 15, 2019

SCOTTSBLUFF — The Scotts Bluff County Attorney’s Office has joined at least one Nebraska prosecutor in saying he believes his office has higher priorities than handling cannabidiol oil cases.

Scotts Bluff County Attorney Dave Eubanks said that after researching the issue, he has opted for a similar position as Don Kleine, prosecutor in Douglas County, “that we have higher priorities than cracking down on an oil that doesn’t have any THC.”

According to Scotts Bluff County Court documents, Eubanks filed on Monday to dismiss charges of distribution of a controlled substance, a Class II felony, against Heather L. Beguin, 45, and her son, Dreyson Beguin. Heather Beguin and Dreyson Beguin had been arrested on Dec. 14 on the second day of operations of a store they opened called KB Natural Alternatives.

Using a strict interpretation of Nebraska’s law, Eubanks said, cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is illegal. During the 2015 Nebraska legislative session, the state allowed two exceptions for CBD in law (LB 390) passed: for use by the University of Nebraska Medical Center for study of the use of CBD oil in the treatment of seizures and for the FDA-approved Epidiolex, an oral solution used for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, in patients 2 years of age and older. Epidiolex is first and currently the only cannabidiol oil solution approved by the FDA. Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson has issued memos in 2017 and again in November 2018 reminding law enforcement that CBD “has and continues to be” illegal.

The question is whether or not prosecutors can carry through and get a conviction in cases involving CBD. In trying cases, Eubanks said, he has spoken to juries about legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational uses and he estimates that 60 to 65 percent of people are in favor of legalization of marijuana for medicinal uses.

“You take that and you apply it to a substance, although derived from marijuana that does not contain THC, can’t get you high, and doesn’t have the hallucinogenic effects of THC and I don’t know that a jury will convict.”

The Nebraska Legislature needs to address the issue, he said. Eubanks said he has talked to other prosecutors, law enforcement and even a judge and it’s felt that the state’s senators need to address the definition of marijuana. State Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln introduced a bill last week that would legalize medical marijuana.

“With the number of methamphetamine cases that we (Scotts Bluff County) have that come across my desk on a weekly basis, I think that is where we need to concentrate our resources.”

In an interview with the Star-Herald in December, Heather Beguin said she and her son had wanted to provide a product to customers that Beguin said she had personally benefited from. She said the store had a lot of interest on its first day and the next morning before being closed after law enforcement raided the business on Dec. 14.

The Beguins were being represented by Scottsbluff attorney Maren Chaloupka. The Star-Herald reached out to Chaloupka for comment on the dismissal of the charges. “I’m thankful for this development. The Beguins want to provide a homeopathic alternative that is drug-free to help their customers avoid addictive drugs.

“We hope the Legislature will clarify that products that don’t contain THC and don’t get the user high are not illegal. Small businesses that offer these products are not criminals,” she said.

Scottsbluff Police Chief Kevin Spencer had also not returned a call seeking comment as of press time. In court documents at the time of the Beguins’ arrest, law enforcement noted having consulted with both the Scotts Bluff County Attorney’s Office and the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office during its investigation in the case.

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