Nebraska Supreme Court removes medical marijuana from November ballot as advocates vow to keep fighting; voter guide released
Last update: October 4, 2020
After a disappointing end to an effort to legalize medical marijuana through a constitutional ballot measure, supporters have regrouped and are moving ahead with new plans. In late September, leaders of Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana wasted no time and submitted new petition language for a 2022 initiative, while an allied group, Nebraska Families 4 Medical Cannabis, published a voter guide grading candidates based on their stances. Advocates are hopeful that — whether through legislative action or another ballot initiative campaign — medical marijuana will be legalized one way or another in the next two years.
On September 10, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the medical marijuana ballot initiative supported by Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana will not appear on the November 2020 ballot. The disappointing decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by opponents arguing that the measure violated the state’s single subject rules.
The campaign submitted over 190,000 voter signatures gathered from all 93 counties to the state on July 2. In late August, Secretary of State Bob Evnen informed the campaign that it had succeeded in collecting enough signatures to certify the constitutional medical marijuana amendment for the ballot. He also dismissed a last minute request from the opposition to not certify the initiative, but opponents filed a lawsuit to strip medical marijuana from the ballot.
The proposal would have established legal protections for patients who receive a recommendation from their healthcare provider to treat a debilitating condition with medical marijuana. It would have also established a foundation for the state to regulate a market of medical marijuana producers and dispensaries.
MPP, which assisted the campaign from its inception and played an important role during the signature drive, expressed its extreme disappointment with the decision while vowing to continue supporting efforts to reform marijuana laws in Nebraska.
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 26 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.
However, 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.
Contact us: Let us know if you’d like to be involved in the fight for sensible marijuana policy in Nebraska by emailing email@example.com. 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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