Omaha Still Fighting Marijuana Despite Growing Trends

Marijuana is a drug that stirs up a lot of controversy all over the nation.

For years, it's been targeted by the government for its dangerous effects, but lately that idea is changing.

Many states have begun allowing it, while here in Nebraska, law enforcement still works hard to fight it.

Solomon Kleinsmith, a local advocate for marijuana legalization, shares a view that's not all that uncommon. What's the deal with marijuana use? People are going to use it, why not regulate it?

"I don't think it should be legal to drive under the influence, just like alcohol. "You should treat it just like alcohol and cigarettes," he says.

The marijuana debate is on our doorstep with Colorado one of two states with the most liberal pot laws in the country.

The dilemma being how aggressively and at what cost do we still prosecute?

The answer in Omaha, regardless of our views, marijuana is a crime, and it's treated as such.

In 2011, there were 2,705 charges for possession in the city, and in 2012, it grew to 2,730.

"Pull that out, and however much that's costing the country, and then you add however much the tax money would be, that'd be nice," says Kleinsmith.

Medical experts aren't sure it's that easy, even if we're just talking about medical uses.

Ally Dering-Anderson, at UNMC, is a marijuana expert.

"I still don't know if I believe that it has a legitimate enough place in medicine to be embraced as that but I certainly know patients who will tell me that I'm full of beans," she says.

Dering-Anderson says the drug may help with anxiety, pain, or sleep problems, but when it's abused, it can be very dangerous.

However, when someone takes a drug with medical purposes, and uses it recreationally, she definitely sees a problem. It's illegal for everything else.

"They've taken this drug, and acknowledged, embraced, whatever, the fact that it may have a recreational, non-medical use. There's no other chemical like that on the planet that I'm aware of," says Dering-Anderson.

As for Kleinsmith, he's not convinced.

"It's much more harmful to society to hurt these people's lives by giving them a record for something so harmless," he says.

Right now, medical use of marijuana is legal in 18 states.

Recreational use is legal in Colorado and Washington.

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