Despite pleas from patients, Nebraska lawmakers refuse to act on medical marijuana in 2018
Last update: July 3, 2018
The Nebraska State Senate, a unicameral legislature currently dominated by Republicans, closed this year’s session in April without taking significant action on marijuana policy reform. Although recent polling indicates that three out of four Nebraskans support medical marijuana, lawmakers were not given an opportunity to vote on LB 622, legislation introduced by Sen. Anna Wishart to establish a medical marijuana program in Nebraska. Read our summary of LB 622 here.
In the face of intransigence from her colleagues on LB 622, Sen. Wishart put forward a resolution (LR293CA) to introduce a state constitutional amendment on medical marijuana, a proposal which would have been put to the voters on the 2018 ballot. Despite passionate pleas and moving stories from patients and their families, the legislature did not allow Sen. Wishart’s resolution to move.
Nearly half of the 49 members of the Nebraska Senate are up for re-election in 2018. If you live in Nebraska, get involved in the local elections and make sure sensible marijuana policy reform is a relevant issue by attending events, talking with other voters, and questioning candidates about their positions. You should also contact your state senator today and tell them 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.