This is going to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. Today we turn to number 37: Nebraska. Our previous rankings are as follows: 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas; 46. Kansas; 47. Alabama; 48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma; 50. South Dakota.
Criminal Penalties. Nebraska’s criminal penalties for marijuana are fairly lenient compared to the other states we have featured in this series so far.
Possession of less than an ounce of cannabis is an infraction, punishable by a maximum fine of $300 and a potentially mandatory drug education course. A second conviction for possession of under one ounce is a Class IV misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine, but no jail time. Any subsequent possession conviction for less than one ounce is a Class IIIA misdemeanor and punishable by a maximum 7-day imprisonment and a $500 fine. Possession of between one ounce and one pound of marijuana is a Class III misdemeanor punishable by up to 3 months in prison and a $500 fine. Possession of over one pound of cannabis is a Class IV felony, which can earn up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Nebraska punishes the sale of any amount of marijuana as a Class IV felony, which can result in a twenty-year prison sentence. Selling to a minor can bump the offense up to a Class II felony with a maximum of 50 years in prison and a mandatory minimum of one year in prison.
Medical Marijuana. Nebraska lawmakers recently killed a bill that would have legalized medical marijuana. According to a local CBS affiliate in Nebraska, KMTV, State Senator Bill Kintner gave the following reason for voting against the medical marijuana bill: “There’s going to be more studies and we’re going to have a better idea of how marijuana fits into our medical system what’s appropriate and all that stuff we ask of other drugs.” This bill’s failure is hardly a surprise, especially considering that Governor Pete Ricketts promised to veto the bill if made it through the state Senate.
Opposition to Legalization. Nebraska politicians almost uniformly oppose marijuana legalization. Recall that the U.S. Supreme Court recently dismissed a lawsuit brought by Nebraska and Oklahoma against Colorado. Nebraska and Oklahoma wanted the Supreme Court to invalidate Colorado’s marijuana laws. Nebraska, which shares a border with Colorado, alleged it had to allocate its limited law enforcement resources to fighting marijuana as a result of Colorado’s cannabis regime and it wanted Colorado to stop.
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson was a leading force in suing Colorado and having already wasted his citizens hard-earned funds has only given him a lust for more. The Scottsbluff Star Herald, reports Peterson is still focusing on the “dangers” of marijuana, especially when it comes to children. Peterson made the following comments:
The big concern that I have is — and the reason that I think this is a fight worth fighting — is that they (the marijuana industry) are doing very strong potency marijuana and they are targeting our young people.
When you are putting strong THC products in pixie sticks, lollipops, power drinks and candy bars, it’s very apparent that you are designing it for a youth market.
The marijuana industry is not being held accountable by the state of Colorado in that regard.
Bottomline. Nebraska deserves some credit for having fairly lighter penalties when it comes to marijuana offenses. However, the state has no medical marijuana program and many in its state leadership appear stuck in the age of “Reefer Madness.” Plus, they lose major points for aggressively trying to shut down another state’s marijuana regime. For these reasons, Nebraska ranks in the bottom half of our rankings.