Tag Archives: marijuana

2019 Medical Cannabis Op-Eds

February 19, 2019 by

Omaha Magazine‘s March/April issue offers an in-depth look at the legality of cannabidiol (CBD) in Nebraska. Because CBD is sourced from cannabis, the magazine’s coverage in the article touches upon discussions of medical cannabis legalization ongoing in the state legislature.

Here are three divergent views on medical cannabis from the perspective of Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, former Nebraska Sen. Tommy Garrett, and Mary Jane Doe (an anonymous drug dealer):


by Gov. Pete Rickets

Former Husker Football Coach Tom Osborne and several Nebraskans visited the State Capitol to issue a warning to state lawmakers ahead of a Jan. 25 hearing on LB 110, a proposal to legalize marijuana in Nebraska. They are right to be concerned about the consequences of legalizing marijuana. The impact in other states has been significant. Every two-and-a-half days in Colorado, someone dies in a marijuana-related car accident, and every one in six kids who was hospitalized for a respiratory illness was exposed to marijuana.  As Mary Hilton, a mother from Lincoln who testified said, “[this is] very dangerous legislation,” and the bill would subject Nebraskans to a “giant medical experiment” should it pass. 

Governor Pete Ricketts is the governor of Nebraska.During the hearing on the bill, opponents presented many thoughtful arguments. LB 110 would broadly legalize marijuana, ostensibly for medical use, by allowing people to grow marijuana in their own homes for any ailment. Furthermore, the bill ignores federal law to set Nebraska on a path to legalizing recreational marijuana. I will highlight three of the major arguments made by opponents of the bill here.

First, marijuana legalization has wreaked havoc in other states. In Colorado, traffic deaths involving people who tested positive for marijuana more than doubled between 2013 and 2017. From 2006 to 2013, states that legalized marijuana under the guise of medicine saw a 610 percent increase in the rate of children with a hospital visit due to unintentional exposure to marijuana. In her testimony, a doctor who had practiced in Colorado and now works in Nebraska shared the stories of victims of marijuana legalization. For example, Levi Pongi, age 19, died after consuming a marijuana cookie and jumping off a balcony. Marc Bullard, age 23, committed suicide after he began using a concentrated form of marijuana. He had no previous history of depression. These stories reflect data from Colorado showing that the number of youth suicides with marijuana present has tripled in 10 years.

Second, legislatively approving new drugs would set a precedent for how Nebraska approaches medicine. For many years, the United States has had the best system of medical research in the world. We have access to safe and effective pharmaceutical drugs thanks in part to outstanding research universities, peer-reviewed studies, and clinical trials overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has already researched and approved Epidiolex and Marinol, both products based on derivatives or synthetic versions of marijuana. LB 110 would circumvent the research process and rely on non-expert opinions rather than clinical research. Hearing participants noted that state policymakers do not have the expertise in medicine or pharmacology to determine dosing, drug interactions, and appropriate medical uses for marijuana. 

Research in recent years showing the negative impacts of marijuana is confirming why this drug deserves expert medical review. From the New England Journal of Medicine to Northwestern Medicine, research is revealing that marijuana has harmful impacts on brain function and emotional health, including schizophrenia and psychosis, among others.

Third, the marijuana industry has worked for the legalization of recreational marijuana in other states. Statessuch as Colorado and Michigan—that started with marijuana, purportedly for a medical purpose, moved to legalize recreational marijuana. Nebraska should expect nothing different if marijuana is legislatively approved for a limited purpose now. Furthermore, at least one state is already seeing a new attempt to push beyond marijuana and legalize another drug that is currently illegal: hallucinogenic mushrooms.

As the session progresses, I expect there will be vigorous debate on the subject of marijuana. There has already been one amendment to LB 110, and there will likely be additional changes as proponents attempt to garner more votes. I will not support LB 110 under any circumstances. We have seen the marijuana industry’s vision for what they want in Nebraska. It is clear in the two versions of the bill already presented to the Legislature, and you can see it in what has happened in California and Colorado. Public health depends on the integrity of our medical research process and practice, and legalizing marijuana without traditional medical trials gambles with the health and safety of the people of Nebraska. 

These are just a few of the concerns Nebraskans are raising. The Legislature should listen to, and maintain the integrity of, our world-class system of medical research. I hope you will take a few moments to contact your state senator and ask them to safeguard public health and reject LB 110. You can find your senator’s contact information at nebraskalegislature.gov. If you have questions or thoughts you would like to share with me, please email pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call 402-471-2244. 

(Editor’s note: a version of this letter was originally published Jan. 28 on Gov. Rickett’s official website, here).

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by Tommy L. Garrett, Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel

How does a retired Air Force Intelligence Colonel, fortunate enough to serve as a Nebraska State Senator representing the 3rd Legislative District, come to sponsor legislation for medical cannabis? There is a one-word answer: moms.

I vividly remember the Friday afternoon on the last day Tommy Garrett represented the 3rd District in the Nebraska Legislature.to submit legislation for the 2015 session when I returned to my office from a Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee meeting. There were some ladies waiting for me in my office. These ladies had one thing in common…they all had children suffering from seizure disorders for whom traditional medicines were not working. They told me a story about a little girl in Colorado who had miraculously been helped with her life-threatening seizures through the use of medical cannabis. The little girl’s name was Charlotte. The company that produced/manufactured the medical cannabis that she used was so impressed with the results that they named that product after the little girl…they name the product Charlotte’s Web.

These moms were desperate to help their children and medical cannabis offered hope. One of the moms who has a daughter that suffers from seizures is taking an incredible number of meds—that were not working—and the doctors were recommending the next step in her treatment to be a frontal lobectomy (i.e., removing an entire lobe of the brain). Take a moment and think about that.

The stories these moms conveyed to me were heart-wrenching…and compelling. I’m not a politician…I hate politicians. I volunteered to serve in the Legislature so that I could help make a difference in people’s lives. I was honored to serve in several leadership positions when I was on active duty and my goal was always the same: accomplish the mission and take care of people. Here was that opportunity, in the Legislature, to truly help people.

When I agreed to bring a medical cannabis bill I really didn’t know the first thing about medical cannabis. I did have some peripheral knowledge of cannabis being used for medical purposes. My father-in-law was taking chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer back in 1979 and was getting so violently ill with nausea that he could no longer take his treatments. The chemo also took away his appetite. His oncologist recommended that he smoke cannabis as it would alleviate the nausea and restore his appetite. I can remember thinking at the time that it was strange that a doctor would recommend an “illegal drug” to treat his cancer. Nevertheless, my father-in-law was able to easily acquire the cannabis and it did exactly what the doctor said it would. The nausea stopped, and he regained his appetite, which in turn allowed him to resume his chemotherapy treatment.

So, like any good intelligence officer…or legislator…I set about getting myself educated about medical cannabis. To say that I was stunned with what I found would be an understatement. I found out that cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The Chinese were among the first to use cannabis for medicinal purposes. By 1850, cannabis became part of the American pharmacopoeia. It was listed as a useful drug for a whole litany of ailments and diseases. However, for some strange reason in 1937 Congress passed a law against cannabis. This occurred despite the objections of the American Medical Association (AMA). They argued that outlawing cannabis would “deprive U.S. citizens of a drug of substantial value.” Nevertheless, just like that, medical cannabis became illegal. Have I told you how much I hate politicians (#followthemoney)?

The disingenuousness of those that argue that cannabis isn’t FDA approved and that there hasn’t been any research to establish the efficacy of cannabis is obscene. The FDA classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug. By definition, a Schedule I drug has “no currently accepted medical use.” Examples of Schedule I drugs are: heroin, LSD, Ecstasy, Meth…and cannabis. And, oh by the way, you cannot conduct research on any Schedule I drug…because after all, by definition, they don’t have any accepted medical use. Wait a minute! What? It’s the proverbial Catch 22…we cannot do research on cannabis to establish its medical efficacy because it’s a Schedule I drug…defined as a drug with “no currently accepted use.” What?

Anyone who will but take the time to research this topic will quickly realize that cannabis has legitimate medicinal value for treatment of numerous ailments and diseases. This is evidenced by the fact that there are now 33 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized medical cannabis. And, internationally, there are 30+ countries that have legalized medical cannabis. Americans are not stupid. National polls show overwhelming approval of medical cannabis. More and more states are approving medical cannabis every year and it’s only a matter of time before it’s legalized at the national level.

The Nebraska Legislature is going to debate medical cannabis again in 2019. There’s also an initiative to get the issue on the ballot for 2020. The Nebraska Legislature, and the governor, need to ask themselves the question: Do we want to approve a bill for medical cannabis in the Legislature and thereby control it (i.e., how it’s produced, distributed, and for what ailments and diseases it can be used) or have it approved by ballot and not have any control as to how it is produced and distributed? The bottom line is all about helping people who are sick and ailing. The Nebraska Legislature needs to pass a medical cannabis law in 2019.      

(Editor’s note: Tommy Garrett represented the 3rd Legislative District in the Nebraska Legislature between 2013 and 2017. He introduced a bill, LB643, that proposed legalization of medical cannabis in 2015). 

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by Mary Jane Doe

I have been smoking weed for half of my life. Recently, I heard someone voice their assumption that I don’t smoke. It reminded me that—however transparent I think my habit is—it’s not transparent to everyone.

I’m a college graduate with a professional job who, for lack of a better term, looks “normal.” Since I’m a social smoker, I tend to surround myself with people who also smoke. The people I smoke with are average Nebraskans. They are your cashiers, medical providers, veterans, artists, fitness instructors, teachers, parents, retail workers, engineers, cosmetologists, farmers, etc. They are your neighbors, your cousins, your friends who are too scared to tell you that they smoke in fear of judgment, and they are your family. 

Don’t get me wrong, not everyone smokes marijuana. Even though 66 percent of Americans support its legalization (according to a 2018 report from Gallup), legalization and consumption are different. There are plenty of people, however, who are too scared to tell anyone—besides their significant other and their smoking buddies—in fear of the consequences.

Since we live in a state where marijuana is not legal, I also cannot disclose my marijuana use to some of my close friends, my work, my befriended coworkers, and to those who are strict believers in marijuana being illegal. I never know how others knowing that I smoke marijuana will negatively affect my life. Will they try to get me fired? Will they unfriend me? Will they disown me? These are some of the judgments and consequences that I, and many others, live in fear of, so I keep this secret from them. If I lived in a state in which medical and/or recreational marijuana was legal, this would be a different scenario.

We, as people, tend to judge others based on the social norms and stereotypes we have learned growing up. The typical marijuana user has been branded as being lazy and unmotivated (a mooch, if you will). However, people use marijuana for a plethora of reasons that have nothing to do with being lazy. I know one local user who is a mother of two who smokes after her kids go to bed when she wants to clean. I also know a user suffering from hyperactivity disorder, and instead of taking a pill every day, they smoke to calm down. Others deal with social anxiety and smoke before heading to parties or large events to prevent panic attacks. Some deal with low appetites because of various digestive issues and smoke in order to eat enough food to live—as with cancer patients undergoing chemo. A close relative with multiple sclerosis was prescribed, and regularly consumed, marijuana in the form of edibles and tincture (in a state where it is legal); unfortunately, this relative has since passed away from complications relating to the disease, but the medication did offer relief. 

Some smokers don’t like to consume alcohol and smoke when socializing instead of drinking. There are so many reasons people smoke, I could never cover them all, nor could I speak for all smokers. Whether for recreational or medicinal purposes, there are “pot-smokers”  from all segments of society and socioeconomic status who consume marijuana for various personal reasons while they maintain their public personas as contributing members of society.

Can I tell you a secret? You have absolutely spoken to someone when they were high on marijuana and until now, you had absolutely no idea. How do I know? Well, for the past six years, I’ve been selling marijuana to friends and friends of friends as my side job. Marijuana has always been easy to access in Nebraska—even before it became legal in Colorado.

Now with legalization (for medical and recreational use) spreading throughout the United States, I’m faced with the prospect of losing a source of my income. Do I support legalization? Yes. But it’s complicated for me. I think it would be the right thing to do. I think it would be the logical thing to do. But I could lose that income stream. Maybe there would be some sort of regulatory framework or licensing regime that would allow local entrepreneurs—such as myself—to continue in the market. Or maybe I would be squeezed out by larger market forces.

It’s hard to say what the future holds for legalization of marijuana in Nebraska. Regardless, marijuana will continue to be consumed in our society by regular folks who are good people. Just like me.

(Editor’s note: Mary Jane Doe is a pseudonym. The writer contributed this essay on the condition of anonymity.) 

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Read more about the medical cannabis debate as it relates to CBD in the March/April 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine (in the editor’s letter, “Legal CBD, Medical Cannabis, and in Between,” and the cover story, “‘CBD Madness’ Sweeps Nebraska”).

High on Jesus

October 12, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Getting high on Jesus in the Rocky Mountains, however, is always 100 percent legal.

The Front Range looms overhead as Dan and Dawne Broadfield sip their morning coffee. Towering at a height of 14,259 feet, the snow-capped Longs Peak is the highest point in the adjacent Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

Residing at an elevation of nearly 1.5 miles above sea level, the Broadfields live on the forested grounds of Covenant Heights. The year-round Christian camp is located nine miles south of Estes Park, on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, near the base of Longs Peak.

estespark6The parents are career missionaries and together have visited Haiti, Mexico, Canada, England, France, Belgium, and Holland, among others. As assistant director of facilities, Dan helps to maintain the 65-acre Covenant Heights, while Dawne home-schools their three children: 18-year-old Darby, 14-year-old Dakota, and 11-year-old Max.

Their days are filled with hiking, fishing, backpacking, paddleboarding, archery, and kayaking. They have unfettered access to high ropes, zip lines, and a climbing wall—perks of living at a wilderness retreat. The same activities draw campers from across the country.

If the weather is nice, Dan and Dawne say they might go six to eight hours without seeing their offspring, and that’s fine for both parents and frolicking children alike.

In summer, nighttime unveils an infinite heaven of twinkling stars, with the Milky Way shining down on three hammocks arranged in a triangular formation in the trees. Each hammock cradles a Broadfield child, peacefully sleeping.

estespark2

Once the weather turns chilly, they gather firewood for campfires. The winter season also brings snow-shoeing, ice hockey, and cross-country skiing.

Wildlife is an integral part of living at the campground, where animals also make their home. Coyotes, moose, and deer frequently wander through Covenant Heights. Herds of elk are common visitors; during the fall rut, the bulls’ high-pitched bugling will echo for miles.

“The other day, an elk walked through the middle of (the triangle of hammocks),” Dawne says. “Our youngest woke up and thought, ‘Uh, oh. This isn’t good.’ But the elk eventually moved along.”

estespark5The free-spirited mother of three does have one rule about sleeping outdoors. Her kids can’t have lipgloss, sunscreen, or other scented items in their pockets. Bears live in the neighborhood, and scented items or food will attract them. Dawne even brings her bird feeders inside at night so as not to attract unwelcome scavengers.

She loves life amongst the animals. In fact, her animal-watching pastime vaguely reminds her of childhood years spent in Omaha. “We went to the Henry Doorly Zoo about every two weeks,” says the one-time Omahan. Dawne’s father served in the Air Force at Offutt Air Force Base for three years, when she was in fifth through eighth grades.

Her adult life unfolded away from Omaha. Before relocating to Colorado in 2015, Dawne and Dan were living in San Antonio, Texas, where they ran an art gallery and online networking platform for artists called ArtLife.

“Here we are now in Estes Park because we felt like we ran out of space in San Antonio. We wanted to become more of a starving artists community,” says Dan. “We want to develop an artists community up here. I want to create a safe space for people to come and hone their skills. It’s the idea of not being in their normal circumstances.”

estespark4Surrounded by natural abundance, the family feels rich. Not so when it comes to the latest technological amenities. They have a satellite television, the only reliable phone is a landline, and mobile internet service is patchy from camp.

Dawne says “there’s a 20-minute window about twice a day” for internet access. An avid photographer, she posts almost daily on Instagram from her smartphone during those limited windows of online accessibility.

Her photo stream documents their neighbors, mostly the wildlife (@adeltadawne). “We have lots of moose that hang out,” she says. “The elk, the deer, the eagles, and then I sprinkle in family stuff.” If it is necessary to check something online, they head to a coffeeshop or the library in town. Dan and Dawne enjoy their wireless existence. “I kind of like the idea of being disconnected,” Dan says.

Christian wilderness retreats have a rich history on the Front Range near Covenant Heights. Even before Colorado was a state, missionaries were spreading the gospel across the landscape.

estespark3Summer encampments for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) date back to the 1890s. The YMCA summer campsite from 1908 remains the site of the modern-day YMCA of the Rockies. Today, the organization hosts Christian gap-year programs for 18-to-24 year olds “seeking personal and spiritual growth while working in a seasonal job at Snow Mountain Ranch.”

On January 26, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Rocky Mountain National Park into existence, and the nationwide National Park Service came into being the following year (celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016).

Covenant Heights arrived on the scene in the early 1930s through the fellowship of the Covenant Young Peoples and Sunday School Conference of Colorado and Wyoming. The coalition of Rocky Mountain churches sought to give “a concerted effort to provide inspiration, Christian fellowship, and evangelism for the young people of the churches in Colorado and Wyoming,” according to its website. Covenant Heights’ current permanent campsite became operational in 1948.

Separate from the YMCA or Covenant Heights, the nonprofit Wind River Ministries also runs the ongoing Wind River Ranch, a “Christian Family Guest Ranch Resort”complete with dude ranch.

Regardless of one’s spiritual inclination, the sweeping mountain vistas are inspiring throughout the vicinity of Estes Park.

In the wake of Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, residents of Estes Park voted to block the opening of recreational and medicinal dispensaries within the limits of town and Larimer County. It was a strategic move to preserve the region’s wholesome reputation as a family destination. Meanwhile, federal marijuana laws reign supreme over Rocky Mountain National Park and other federally owned lands.

Getting high on Jesus in the Rocky Mountains, however, is always 100 percent legal.

Visit covenantheights.org for more information.

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My Battle With Opiates

October 11, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

I’ve had problems with a variety of drugs, but my story hit rock bottom with opiate addiction.

I was always a very straight-and-narrow kid growing up in West Omaha. I obtained my pilot’s license when I was 17, and I was very active in sports and fitness. I graduated with a 4.17 GPA, and maintained a 4.0 in my first year studying at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Toward the end of high school, I did the typical partying with friends: drinking at friends’ houses when their parents were away, maybe smoking a little marijuana. But I never felt I had lost control. My father was a functioning alcoholic, so, you could say I was somewhat predisposed to the disease of addiction. But what did I know?

So-called hard drugs caught me the summer after high school. First came ecstasy pills. I remember the first time I “rolled,” I was in my basement with a couple friends who were more experienced with drugs. “I hope this feeling would never end,” I remember saying. My friend looked at me and just shook her head as if feeling sorry for a little kid. The next day, I felt the worst depression I had ever experienced. It scared me. But, I kept taking the pills, chasing that feeling, only for a slightly less satisfying high as my body acclimated to the drug. After a summer of taking ecstasy two to three times a week, the depression stuck with me. I couldn’t seem to have fun without being high.

As I went into my first year of college, I started trying cocaine and opiates. A lot of my acquaintances—I say acquaintances because none of those people are in my life now that I am sober—were doing things like oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and other prescribed narcotics. These prescriptions are relatively easy to get your hands on. There are plenty of other drugs that are synthetic forms of opium and heroin, too.

By my third year of college, I was spending $50-$150 per day to support my habit. Looking back, I don’t know how I could afford it.

Over the next two years my use of opiates grew more and more frequent. At first, I was able to hide my habit from everyone in my life. I can’t even remember how many times I was high in class or in the library working on homework. At the time, I felt in control. When I look back, I realize I was developing quite a few character defects: lying, manipulation, cheating, and stealing. Eventually it got to the point where I wouldn’t even do schoolwork without some sort of drug to aid me.

By my third year of college, I was spending $50­-$150 per day to support my habit. Looking back, I don’t know how I could afford it. I had a good job and minimal bills. I knew when the people I got my drugs from had a prescriptions refilled better than they did. I always figured out a way. Because without the opiates, I felt restless; I couldn’t sleep; I was simply miserable. It got to a point where I needed help. I couldn’t keep going on like that. After checking into a methadone clinic, I soon admitted to my mom and sister how bad I had gotten.

The methadone clinic was another horrible experience for me in the end. The $13 per day I spent bought me another opiate—meant to wean me off of my addiction to pills—that got me arguably higher than those prescription opiates I had been taking. Because of the high dosage, I was nodding off throughout the day. So, I made a decision to quit cold turkey. Relapse followed with a new sort of high, and a new low.

I didn’t sleep for two weeks, I was so restless I wanted to cut my legs off. I couldn’t sit still, I was tired, irritable, depressed, etc.

 After about two weeks, I shot up the pills for the first time. I remember it very clearly: I just gave in. I didn’t like life without drugs anymore. I told myself being sober wasn’t worth it. I was in the back seat of my friend’s car. We were with someone who used an IV, and she handed me my own syringe. She told me it was mine. I actually thought to myself. “What a kind gesture of her to give me my very own syringe.” Of course I had no idea how to cook down the pill we had to a point where we could shoot it up. But I paid close attention when she did it for me, tied me off, and injected it into my vein. My heart was racing. I fell in love.

It didn’t take long for me to become an expert. I had a box of 100 syringes under my bed along with all the cleaning supplies necessary to do it “responsibly.” Within about two months, my arms were beaten black and blue, I had lost about 20 pounds, and I was constantly feeling horrible. The only time I felt normal was when I was high. It was getting harder to find pills, though. There were days where I would skip class, drive around for eight or more hours with people I didn’t know just to get one pill or a few hits of incredibly overpriced heroin. Then again, there were times when it was easy to find, but never when I was dope-sick and desperate. It was a miserable lifestyle, a nightmare. One time I even drove to Denver and spent three days there just to get cheaper heroin. Aside from visiting the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, I didn’t do anything other than shoot up heroin the entire time I was there by myself.

When I started the IV drugs I spiraled out of control really quickly. I went to a different clinic to get on Suboxone, a newer drug for opiate addiction. It made it so I couldn’t get high on opiates and so I wouldn’t have withdrawals. At first, I even shot that up just to feel a little high. I hated not being able to feel happy or excited. I was on Suboxone for two years. During that time, I converted my opiate addiction into an IV cocaine addiction with a side of alcoholism. Thankfully, I was able to stop taking Suboxone, but it was the hardest thing I have ever done. I didn’t sleep for two weeks, I was so restless I wanted to cut my legs off. I couldn’t sit still, I was tired, irritable, depressed, etc. I went into a drinking binge, not leaving my apartment for days at one point. I almost wished I had never got on Suboxone in the first place, but it served one purpose: It got me away from all my opiate connections.

The story of my addiction is not glamorous. In fact, there is a lot that I don’t remember too clearly. There is a lot that I’d rather forget. Addiction is not an easy thing to put on a timeline (which they asked me to do during both of my treatment center stays). Addicts don’t exactly have a structured lifestyle. It’s a roller coaster, complicated, and devastating. It’s taken me three years of trying to get to the point I am at with my sobriety.

battlewithopiates1Every day the disease of addiction whispers in my ear, rationalizing and scheming ways in which I could get high or drunk. Isolation is what it wants, so my defense is fellowship. The character defects that fed my addiction are still with me— I am an egomaniac with low self-esteem who copes by trying to control the world around me—but I work every day to address these problems. I’ve destroyed and rebuilt relationships with my family and friends. I have squashed my loved ones’ hopes over and over again, yet my family still stands behind me. Their support is what sustains my recovery. They know that I could relapse, that my fight is not over.

Sam requested omission of his last name at the advice of his Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor. He participates regularly in Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Visit omahaaa.org for more information.

For more information about how Omaha fits into the nationwide opiate abuse epidemic, read: https://omahamagazine.com/2016/10/dying-for-opiates-in-omaha/ 

Last Ride

December 11, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Omaha Police Department Officer Greg Hansen has seen the worst humanity offers.

He witnessed the aftermath of the Von Maur shootings. He has taken down drug addicts so high they were impervious to pain. He has seen people die in countless ways.

“The cruelty one can do to another is pretty nasty,” Hansen, 55, says.

He doesn’t feel old and jaded, yet a hint of cynicism hangs off the shoulders of his faded blue uniform.

After 30 years, two months, and two weeks (not that he’s counting), Hansen put aside his weapon and retired in September.

Hansen drove his police cruiser, rode his mountain bike, or walked the Riverfront patrol (16th Street to the river from Leavenworth to Cuming streets). Or he hopped on a two-wheeled, battery-operated Segway, good for sneaking up on criminals.   

He amassed a huge black book filled with his usual offenders. Hansen usually checked the warrants before heading out to the streets.

Panhandling, drinking, and disorderly conduct were the norm. “Someone once described an officer’s day as 7 hours and 58 minutes of boredom, and two minutes of sheer terror,” Hansen says.

Some calls made the hair on the back of his neck stand up, yet he never fired his 40-caliber pistol.

He was bitten twice and lost a knuckle taking down a brutal felon. A rapist beat a woman so badly her head no longer looked round, yet she managed to escape. When Hansen arrived at her apartment, the rapist was still there, passed out and naked save for one sock. There was blood in the carpet, on the walls—even on the ceiling. He slapped one cuff on the perp when the guy woke up in a fighting mood. Hansen knocked him out, breaking his hand in the process.

Hansen believes gang violence and drug dealing is worse than in previous years. “Gangs are smart. It seems like whenever we arrested one crack dealer, another would just…boom!…right in their place,” he says.   

And yet, the job had its funny moments. When Hansen worked nights down at the Old Market, he saw his share of nightlife entertainment.

“It was not unusual to get a call on a Sunday morning about a car being stolen,” he says, laughing. “And it’s a block or two away. They don’t remember where they parked it because they were drunk the night before.”

He once pulled over a bunch of teenagers. When the driver rolled down the window, a familiar, earthy smell drifted out. When Hansen asked whose pot was in the center console, no one took credit.

“This is only a $100 fine,” he said.

“Dude…you’re getting ripped off,” one boy said, “I only paid $40 bucks
for that.”

Greg Hansen