Nebraska state troopers see increase in illegal drug busts, arrests

December 21, 2018

The work of the Nebraska State Patrol this year has led to a high-volume roundup of illegal or illegally distributed drugs, including more than 8,200 pounds of marijuana and 136 pounds of fentanyl.

The recovery of those drugs and of methamphetamines, hashish and heroin is the highest in the past 10 years, said Nebraska State Patrol Superintendent John Bolduc.

Particularly meth has been on the increase statewide, he said, and is impacting communities, jails, social services and out-of-home foster placements of children. And other states in the region are experiencing the same increases.

Felony arrests are up more than 30 percent over a five-year average.

“We just cracked 1,000 felony arrests in the last week. We’ve never seen 1,000 felony arrests in a year,” he said.

The last time the patrol recovered this year’s amount of marijuana was 2006, Gov. Pete Ricketts said at a Thursday news conference to highlight the state law enforcement agency’s successes. And it’s the first time for recovery of 136 pounds of fentanyl, he said.

“They really have done a fantastic job,” Ricketts said of the troopers and investigators, represented by troopers from six areas of the state, an investigator and the representative of the police service dog unit, as well as Bolduc.

“When the Nebraska State Patrol is taking these dangerous drugs off the streets, they are keeping our people here safe and people in other states safe, as well,” Ricketts said.

Bolduc said there’s no question that troopers and investigators have saved lives, especially in the seizure of the harder drugs.

The potent opioid fentanyl creates a “huge public safety problem and a huge officer safety problem,” he said. Practices to minimize exposure to troopers have been instituted. In other states, officers have been hospitalized or had to be monitored, and buildings evacuated because of exposure to fentanyl powder during drug raids and arrests.

“It really is a game-changer. Don’t handle drugs like you see in the movies because that’ll end up very costly,” he said.

Marijuana being seized includes manufactured products, such as wax and vape pens, that are legal in some states, including Colorado, Minnesota, North Dakota and Missouri, and which are being diverted to the black market and transferred into and through Nebraska.

Troopers are also coming upon high-grade marijuana produced in Mexico, California, Washington, Colorado and diverted from the legitimate market into the black market.

In the states where marijuana sales are legal, there is regulation of quality and safety, the superintendent said. But the black market marijuana has no quality control and no control over how it is grown, manufactured, produced with respect to chemicals and fertilizer, and no indication of how harmful it may be.

In regard to the attempts underway to get medical marijuana legalization on the ballot in Nebraska, Bolduc said his opinion was that it’s bad public policy.

“And we shouldn’t go there,” he said.

A week ago, two Nebraska state senators announced they had created a campaign committee, Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, and will seek a constitutional amendment to give Nebraskans the right to use marijuana for medical purposes.

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