OMAHA, Neb. — Lancaster County’s public defender says Nebraska ought to decriminalize marijuana and regulate its distribution.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports ( ) that Joe Nigro said at a Thursday forum in Omaha that he’s not advocating the use of marijuana. But he says prohibition has failed and that the state’s criminal justice system shouldn’t be treating a health issue.

The forum was hosted by the National Association of Social Workers’ Nebraska chapter.

Nigro also criticized state Attorney General Doug Peterson for continuing to pursue legal action with Oklahoma against Colorado over its marijuana policies. Peterson had left the forum before Nigro’s remarks, but Peterson later defended the lawsuit, saying in an email that the effort is backed by all nine former administrators of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

Peterson contends pot is more potent now, because legalization in other states has led to competition and the rise of “Big Marijuana.”

“When you bring free-market forces into the impairment industry, what is the goal? You won’t find any advertisements about flavor, aroma,” he told the social workers. “It’s all about potency.”

Nigro argues legalization could shift resources for marijuana enforcement from the criminal justice system toward regulation, and that taxing cannabis would generate millions in revenue for schools, other law enforcement, and mental health and substance abuse treatment programs.

Four states have already legalized marijuana for recreational use. Five more, including California, will vote on this issue in November.

“I just don’t see us going back,” Nigro said. “I think this trend is going to continue.”

Information from: Lincoln Journal Star,