Nebraska Legislature reconvenes, medical marijuana bill awaits action
Last update: January 22, 2016
On January 6, 2016, the Nebraska Legislature reconvened for the second year of its two-year session, with a compassionate medical marijuana bill waiting for further action. Last year, the unicameral Senate approved a bill to allow seriously ill patients to use and obtain medical marijuana with the approval of their doctors. However, the bill needs two successful Senate votes in order to send it to the governor. If you’re a resident of Nebraska, please take two minutes to find out how your senator voted and then email him or her in support of this compassionate legislation moving forward.
Although a majority of the Senate has already voted in support of this bill, passage and enactment are not guaranteed. Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) has indicated he opposes medical marijuana protections, and a veto override would require 30 votes. Since it takes 30 votes to override a veto, it’s vital that senators hear their constituents want them to stand up for patients.
Introduced by Sen. Tommy Garrett, LB 643 would allow patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, and other serious ailments to obtain and use medical marijuana products if recommended to do so by their doctors.
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 — as Nebraska’s attorney general has done — lawmakers should 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.