Last Update: January 26, 2015
Medical marijuana legislation introduced; attorney general files suit against Colorado
The Nebraska Senate’s legislative session has begun, and a compassionate medical marijuana program is on the table.
Sen. Tommy Garrett and three of his colleagues have introduced the Cannabis Compassion and Care Act. This bill, LB 643, would allow seriously ill patients to use, possess, and cultivate a limited amount of marijuana if they are recommended to do so by their doctors. It would also create a system of registered medical marijuana providers to ensure patients have safe and reliable access. If you are a resident of Nebraska and support compassionate medical marijuana laws, please email your state senator in support of this bill.
Unfortunately, legislation has also been introduced that would actually increase, not decrease, penalties for certain marijuana crimes. LB 326 would make possessing marijuana concentrates (or products made with them) a felony carrying up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both! This draconian proposal flies in the face of public support and science: the World Health Organization has concluded that marijuana use is not affected by the imposition of harsh penalties. If you’re a Nebraskan, please contact your state senator to oppose this misguided proposal.
Meanwhile, Nebraska’s former attorney general is also attempting to move marijuana policy backwards. Shortly before leaving office, then-Attorney General Jon Bruning joined the attorney general for Oklahoma and filed suit challenging Colorado’s law that regulates and legalizes marijuana for adults. The suit asks the Supreme Court to strike down Colorado’s law, claiming it is preempted (or trumped) by federal law. This suit is both an affront to states rights and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Did you know Nebraska is a "decrim" state?
Nebraska is one of the 19 states that fine, instead of jail, individuals found in possession of a small amount of cannabis. First offense possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is a civil infraction punishable under Nebraska law by a $300 fine (and a possible drug education course) instead of jail time, and is a citation as opposed to an arrest. Second offense possession of up to an ounce carries a $400 fine and up to five days in jail, and third offense possession is punishable by up to a week in jail and a fine of $500. Second and third offense possession are misdemeanors, but are only citable, and not arrestable, offenses.
Even so, there were still 7,756 marijuana arrests and/or citations in 2012. Unfortunately, these arrests disproportionately affect minority communities. According to the ACLU, African Americans in Nebraska are nearly five times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as their white neighbors, despite similar use rates. You can write your state legislators to ask them to end marijuana prohibition in the state and replace it with a system that legalizes marijuana for adults 21 and older and regulates it like alcohol. This approach would take the lucrative product off the criminal market and create thousands of legitimate jobs and tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue. It would also allow police to focus on serious and violent crime.
You can learn more about Nebraska's marijuana penalties and enforcement by reading this report by Jon Gettman, Ph.D.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Nebraska, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service.