Nebraska Unicameral adjourns without passing medical program
Last update: September 12, 2016
Medical marijuana efforts
On April 5, 2016, a group of Nebraska lawmakers blocked the Unicameral from voting on a comprehensive medical cannabis program, Sen. Tommy Garrett’s Medical Cannabis Act (LB 643). The Senate passed the bill in May 2015 on first reading, but Nebraska procedure requires at least three votes total before legislation is sent to the governor. During the second consideration of the bill, opponents launched a filibuster which could only be ended with the support of 33 of the 49 senators. Sadly, the cloture vote fell three votes short, 30-15.
On April 20, 2016, the Nebraska Legislature adjourned for the year without taking further action on the legislation, meaning there can be no further action in the legislature until 2017. Please thank your senators if they stood up for patients or implore them to reconsider next year if they voted no.
Nebraska is one of the 21 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.
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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