Nebraska legislative session begins!
Last update: January 4, 2017
The Nebraska Unicameral convened on January 4. Unfortunately, the new makeup of the Senate currently has fewer supporters than last year when a medical marijuana bill fell just three votes short of moving forward for a final vote. However, this year will offer new opportunities to educate and engage new lawmakers.
Advocates are working with returning and new lawmakers to determine the best strategy for moving forward. New legislative champions and a new bill will allow for a re-energized movement for compassionate medical marijuana legislation.
Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted effective medical marijuana laws. Seriously ill patients in Nebraska deserve the same access to this safe and effective treatment that is currently available for 60% of the U.S. population. The time has come for Nebraska lawmakers to put aside politics and stand with patients.
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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