Last Update: April 22, 2015
Medical marijuana legislation approved by committee; will be voted on by full Senate
On April 20, 2015, the Nebraska Judiciary Committee voted 7-1 in support of a bill that would allow seriously ill Nebraskans to use medical marijuana with their doctors’ recommendations. The bill also allows for a limited number of dispensaries where marijuana would be cultivated and distributed to qualified patients. If you are a resident of Nebraska, please email your state senator today and ask her or him to vote “YES” on the Cannabis Compassion and Care Act, LB 643.
If supported by a majority of the Senate and approved by the governor, Nebraska will become the 24th state to enact a comprehensive medical marijuana program. Passage of LB 643 would mean that Nebraskans suffering from conditions like multiple sclerosis, AIDS, cancer, and a handful of other serious conditions would be able to legally use marijuana if their doctors recommend it.
Legislation that would actually increase, not decrease, penalties for certain marijuana crimes is still pending in the Judiciary Committee. 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.
Did you know Nebraska is a "decrim" state?
Nebraska is one of the 19 states that do not jail individuals found in possession of a small amount of cannabis — at least for a first offense. 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.
Instead of wasting Nebraskans' tax dollars filing desperate legal challenges against other states that have chosen to sensibly reform their marijuana policy, encourage your lawmakers to take a proactive approach to controlling the market by replacing marijuana prohibition 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.