As more and more states jump on the marijuana legalization bandwagon, it may leave you wondering where Nebraska stands on this issue. Currently, 29 states allow marijuana use for medical purposes, and nine have legalized recreational marijuana use.
Nebraska doesn’t fall into these ranks, and it seems it will stay that way – at least in 2018.
Understanding Nebraska’s current drug possession laws
Following federal law, Nebraska still considers any possession, use or sale of marijuana illegal. Criminal penalties for marijuana possession of one ounce or less include:
- First offense: Criminal citation and $300 fine with possible counseling on drug use/abuse
- Second offense: Misdemeanor charge with a $400 fine and up to five days in jail
- Third and subsequent offenses: Misdemeanor charges, $500 fine and up to seven days’ jail time
Possession of higher amounts only increases the penalties. For example, possessing more than a pound of marijuana is a felony offense with up to five years’ incarceration and $10,000 in fines. The sale or distribution of marijuana is also a felony offense with similarly harsh penalties.
Recent legal fits and starts
In general, it seems Nebraskans remain divided on the issue of marijuana legalization. Legislative efforts to legalize medical marijuana in the state have been hampered by a lack of support. Earlier this year, Senator Anna Wishart sponsored a bill that would have put the medical cannabis question on November’s ballot. However, the bill has had trouble obtaining the 33 votes it needs to be brought to the senate floor. As such, it’s unlikely to make it to the ballot in 2018, though supporters of the bill hope to retry in 2019 or 2020.
A separate effort focused on the decriminalization of recreational marijuana use is similarly in legal limbo. The Nebraska Marijuana Decriminalization Initiative is currently seeking signatures to decriminalize marijuana possession of one ounce or less. If passed, this would essentially remove the penalties mentioned earlier starting January 1, 2019. As with other states, though, marijuana possession would still be illegal under federal law. The initiative needs at least 7 percent of valid voter signatures to get onto November’s ballot.
As with anything of this magnitude, only time will tell what will happen to marijuana legalization in Nebraska. In the meantime, it’s important to remember that though public opinion may be changing, the law stands firm on issue of marijuana possession as an illegal practice in Nebraska – for now.