Nebraska Legislature fails to vote on medical marijuana
Last update: October 17, 2017
The Nebraska Unicameral had the opportunity this year to consider medical marijuana legislation with LB 622, a bill that would have created a medical marijuana program and provided safe, legal access to medical marijuana for suffering Nebraskan patients. The bill was introduced by Sen. Anna Wishart and was supported by 10 co-sponsors. Read a summary of the bill here.
The Legislature’s Judiciary Committee advanced LB 622, a bill that would permit manufacturers and distribution centers to provide medical marijuana to patients suffering from 19 different medical conditions, including seizures, anxiety, or “any other illness for which medical cannabis provides relief as determined by the participating health care practitioner.” While patients could not smoke the drug or grow the plants, they would be allowed to take medical marijuana in pills, oils, liquids or lotions, or through vaporizers.
Unfortunately, the Unicameral debated medical marijuana for a couple of hours but did not take a vote on the measure. Medical marijuana bills have also failed in previous legislative sessions. However, sixty percent of Nebraskans believe that marijuana should be legal for medical purposes. If you live in Nebraska, contact your senator today and tell him or her it’s time for Nebraska to move forward with a compassionate medical marijuana program.
Current marijuana laws in Nebraska
Possession is illegal in Nebraska. Possession of one ounce or less is an infraction, which is punishable by a maximum fine of $300, and the judge may order the offender to complete a drug education course. A second conviction for possession of one ounce or less is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $500, and the third and subsequent convictions for possession of one ounce or less are a misdemeanor and are punishable by a maximum sentence of seven days imprisonment and a maximum fine of $500.
Cultivation is not allowed. Cultivation penalties in Nebraska are based upon the total weight of the plants found.
There is no medical marijuana program or any other allowances for patients in Nebraska.
Decriminalization for first time possession
Nebraska is one of the 22 states that do not jail first-time offenders 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, Nebraska has one of the highest marijuana arrest rates in the country, with 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 learn more about Nebraska’s marijuana penalties and enforcement by reading this report by Jon Gettman, Ph.D. You can also read about why states should replace 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, while allowing police to focus on serious crime.
Timeline of marijuana reform in Nebraska
2017: A state senator introduced a bill during the legislative session that would allow patients to use marijuana products, but would not allow for either the smoking or cultivation of the plant. A similar bill was approved during the 2016 session, but a group of lawmakers started a filibuster that ultimately quashed the legislation.
Contact us: Let us know if you’d like to be involved in the fight for sensible marijuana policy in Nebraska by emailing [email protected]. Please let us know if you’re a medical professional, a seriously ill patient or loved one of a patient, or someone else with a personal connection to the issue.
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