Nebraska Marijuana Laws

Key Points

  • Cannabis is illegal for recreational or medical use in Nebraska
  • Nebraska residents are prohibited from cultivating marijuana
  • Small possession of marijuana has been decriminalized in Nebraska
  • There are ongoing efforts in the 108th Nebraska legislature (first session) to legalize marijuana. One aims to legalize recreational marijuana, while another seeks to make medical cannabis legal
  • Nebraska punishes marijuana violations with harsh penalties

Is Marijuana Legal in Nebraska?

Marijuana is illegal for either medical or recreational use in Nebraska. Hence, the sale, cultivation, processing, distribution, transporting, purchase, and use of cannabis is prohibited in the state. Nebraska is one of the states with strict marijuana laws in the United States. However, the state has decriminalized small amounts of weed. Anyone caught carrying less than 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use for the first time will not be charged with a misdemeanor. Instead, they are seen to have committed a civil infraction punishable by up to a $300 fine with no option of jail term. However, subsequent possession offenses are punishable with more severe penalties, including incarceration.

Cannabis is still illegal in Nebraska because legalizing it is considered unconstitutional. Famous for its high THC concentration, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Nebraska Uniform Controlled Substances Act. Hence, it is a common belief among cannabis legalization opponents in the state that legalizing and commercializing the substance will jeopardize the safety and health of Nebraskans.

Nebraska Marijuana Laws in 2024

Marijuana remains illegal in Nebraska as of early 2024. However, a few cannabis legislative bills were introduced in 2023 in a bid to legalize cannabis in the state. These include:

Legislative Bill 588 (LB 588)

Cited as the Medicinal Cannabis Act, LB 588 seeks to legalize marijuana for medical use in Nebraska by qualifying patients with consent from a licensed physician. The Judiciary Committee is currently considering the bill. Under LB 588, persons living with the following medical conditions would be eligible for medical marijuana under the proposed Nebraska Medical Marijuana Program:

  • Chronic or severe pain
  • Hepatitis C
  • Autism
  • A severe medical condition or the treatment of a serious ailment that causes severe nausea
  • Cancer
  • Parkison's disease
  • Any terminal illness with a possible life expectancy of less than one year
  • Glaucoma
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Severe muscle spasms
  • Tourett's syndrome
  • Epilepsy

Qualifying patients enrolled in the Nebraska Medical Marijuana Program would be permitted to carry up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana unless a physician recommends otherwise. Also, they may use marijuana-infused products with a maximum of 2,000 mg of THC. The bill would ban the consumption of marijuana while operating a motor vehicle, motor boat, or aircraft. Similarly, LB 588 would prohibit driving a motor vehicle or working on a facility or equipment while under the influence of marijuana.

The Medicinal Cannabis Act would establish the Nebraska Medical Cannabis Board and a Cannabis Enforcement Department to see to the implementation of the bill. Smoking and vaporization of medical marijuana would be prohibited under LB 588. Similarly, qualifying patients would be prohibited from using edibles other than a pill. LB 588 provides a legal framework for establishing medical cannabis dispensaries. Each licensed dispensary would be required to employ a pharmacist to educate qualifying patients about the appropriate dosage and usage of medicinal cannabis, either in person or via telemedicine.

Legislative Bill 634 (LB 634)

This bill is dubbed the Cannabis Control Act and the Cannabis Conviction Clean Slate Act. It aims to legalize recreational marijuana. Under this bill, adults aged 21 years and over could possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana flower (or its equivalent) for recreational purposes and grow up to six marijuana plants at home for personal use. LB 634 would permit the commercial sale of adult-use marijuana and create a legal framework for selling, distributing, and selling cannabis.

As part of its provisions, LB 634 would decriminalize the possession, purchase, and transport of no more than 1 ounce of marijuana by persons aged 21 years and older. The bill would not permit the consumption of marijuana products by any means, including smoking, in motor vehicles or in public. Legislative Bill 634 seeks to allow persons with marijuana convictions to obtain clean slate relief for offenses committed on or after January 1, 2010. Also, the offenders must have paid all court-ordered fees and completed their sentence by June 1, 2024. Clean state relief removes qualified cannabis convictions from a person's record.

Legislative Bill 22 (LB 22)

LB 22 seeks to decriminalize the use and possession of cannabis in Nebraska fully. This bill intends to remove cannabis from the Nebraska Uniform Controlled Substances Act and eliminate penalties for marijuana possession and use. Under this bill, items intended for use or being used for cannabis cultivation, consumption, or processing would not be regarded as drug paraphernalia. If passed, LB 22 is expected to permit Nebraskans to cultivate marijuana for personal use.

Timeline of Cannabis Law in Nebraska

  • 2020 - An attempt to put a medical marijuana legalization initiative on the November 2020 ballot failed, despite gathering more than the required number of signatures. The Nebraska Supreme Court struck out the initiative from being placed on the 2020 ballot
  • 2022 - A pair of medical cannabis access proposals failed to make the November 2022 ballot as they could not gather enough signatures
  • 2023 - Two marijuana legislative bills were introduced in the state legislature and are still being deliberated. Legislative Bill 634 (LB 634) seeks to legalize adult-use cannabis for adults aged 21 years or over, while Legislative Bill 588 (LB 588) aims to make medical marijuana legal for qualified individuals

Federal Legalization of Weed in 2024

Although marijuana remains a controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), efforts are ongoing to remove it from the list of Scheduled I drugs and legalize it at the center. Through a statement released by the White House on marijuana reform in 2022, President Joe Biden pardoned prior federal offenses of small marijuana possession. In the statement, the president directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to institute a process to review how cannabis is scheduled under federal law quickly. President Biden believed that sending people to jail for cannabis possession has incarcerated and toppled their lives for conduct that several states now permit.

The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act of 2020 (MORE Act) and the MORE Act of 2022 align with President Biden's position on cannabis reforms. While these bills were stalled, both sought to remove marijuana from the Schedule I drug list in the CSA and eliminate penalties for federal cannabis crimes. Similarly, the bills aimed to expunge prior convictions of federal marijuana offenses.

In July 2022, S. 4591, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), was introduced in the Senate as cannabis reform legislation. Among other provisions, the CAOA seeks to do the following:

  • Remove cannabis from the list of controlled substances under the CSA and require the Attorney General to finalize a rule to achieve this within 180 days of signing the bill into law
  • Permit individuals aged 21 years and over to purchase and use recreational cannabis
  • Increase the amount of marijuana available for research purposes
  • Authorize medical practitioners with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend medical marijuana to veterans
  • Levy an initial 10% federal excise tax on large marijuana businesses and increase it to a maximum of 25%. For small and medium marijuana producers, the tax will begin at 5% and gradually rise to 12.5% after five years
  • Establish a Center for Cannabis Products within the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the production, labeling, sales, and distribution of marijuana products
  • Expunge the criminal records of individuals with simple federal marijuana convictions within one year of enactment and permit persons currently serving jail terms for marijuana offenses to petition the courts for relief
  • Establish a federal legal framework for the cannabis industry, with some existing government agencies playing key roles. The agencies include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the FDA, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)
  • Allow states where marijuana is currently illegal to continue their ban on the substance but not to prevent or restrict transporting of marijuana products through their jurisdictions between legal states
  • End depriving people of federal benefits due to a conviction for a marijuana offense or the possession or use of cannabis
  • Prohibit drug testing for federal employment, except for sensitive roles, especially where national security is involved
  • Prohibit vaping delivery system items containing added artificial or natural flavors
  • Maintain the existing federal laws prohibiting trafficking in legal states with marijuana trafficking laws and in states where cannabis is illegal

In April 2023, S. 1323, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act of 2023), was introduced in the Senate. S. 1323 seeks to provide protections for federally regulated financial institutions providing services to state-licensed cannabis businesses. It would prohibit a federal banking regulator from penalizing a financial institution for providing financial services to state-approved marijuana businesses. The passage of this bill would allow licensed marijuana businesses to accept credit cards, open bank accounts, and access other banking services. Under S. 1323, proceeds from transactions of state-licensed cannabis businesses will cease being considered proceeds from illicit activities. It is widely believed that passing the SAFE Banking Act of 2023 into law may help deliver the federal legalization of weed.

The Marijuana 1-to-3 Act of 2023 (HR. 610), a bill seeking to move cannabis to a lower schedule of the CSA, was also introduced in the 118th Congress in January 2023. If enacted, this bill would reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I drug into Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act within 60 days of enactment.

In another development, HR. 2598, the PREPARE Act of 2023 (the Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-prohibition Adult-use Regulated Environment Act) was introduced in the House in April 2023. The PREPARE Act of 2023 aims to create a commission to study a quick and credible pathway to the federal regulation of marijuana. The bill would prepare the federal government by establishing a commission to advise on the development of a marijuana regulatory framework in the event of a sudden and inevitable end to the federal ban on cannabis.

Can I Use Cannabis in Nebraska?

No, it is illegal to use marijuana for medical or recreational purposes anywhere in Nebraska, including on private properties or in public spaces. It does not matter if a person buys cannabis from a state where it is legal. The moment they enter Nebraska, possessing or consuming it within the state's boundaries becomes illegal. Even if someone has a valid prescription for medical marijuana from another state, they are prohibited from consuming cannabis once they are in Nebraska.

How The Legal Sale Of Cannabis In Nebraska Happens

The sale of marijuana is prohibited in Nebraska even though the state has decriminalized the possession of small amounts of the substance. It is illegal to sell any form of cannabis or marijuana consumption system items in Nebraska, including hash and concentrates and marijuana paraphernalia. Anyone caught selling cannabis in the state commits a felony regardless of the quantity of marijuana involved. The sale of any amount of marijuana in Nebraska is punishable by compulsory minimum jail sentences in addition to fines.

Penalties for Marijuana-related crimes in Nebraska

Marijuana activities are strictly prohibited in Nebraska, and the following is a list of marijuana-related crimes in the state and the applicable penalties for such violations:

Marijuana Possession For Personal Use In Nebraska

  • A first offense of possessing 1 ounce or less of marijuana is an infraction punishable by up to a $300 fine. A second offense is a misdemeanor penalized with up to five days of incarceration and/or a maximum fine of $500. For a third and subsequent offense, which is also a misdemeanor, the violator faces a fine of up to $500 and/or a jail term of seven days, maximum
  • Possessing more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound of cannabis is considered a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine and/or a maximum of three months of incarceration
  • Anyone caught with more than 1 pound of marijuana in Nebraska commits a felony and risks a fine of up to $10,000 and/or a prison sentence of up to two years

Hash And Concentrates In Nebraska

  • The sale, manufacture, or possession of marijuana hash and concentrates with intent to distribute is considered a Class IIA felony in Nebraska. The offense is punishable by up to a $25,000 fine and/or up to 20 years of incarceration
  • Anyone caught possessing less than 1 ounce of hash a first time commits a civil infraction, which is punishable by up to a $300 fine. A second offense is considered a Class IV misdemeanor, which attracts up to a $500 fine. The third and subsequent offenses is a Class IIIA misdemeanor penalized by up to a $500 fine and/or no more than seven days of incarceration

Marijuana Sale/Manufacture In Nebraska

  • The sale of any quantity of marijuana in Nebraska is a felony punishable by a maximum of $25,000 fines and/or up to 20 years of imprisonment
  • A first offense for marijuana sale to a minor within 1,000 feet of any school or between 100 and 1,000 feet of other designated locations is a felony. Offenders risk a mandatory minimum prison sentence of one year and up to 50 years of incarceration. A person who commits the same offense a second time or subsequently also commits a felony. Such an individual faces a compulsory three years prison sentence and a possible life sentence

Marijuana Cultivation In Nebraska

The punishments for cultivating marijuana in Nebraska are now the same as those approved for cannabis sale/manufacture. They are severe, and offenders may not get off quite so easily, depending on the aggregate weight of the marijuana plants involved.

Marijuana Paraphernalia In Nebraska

  • A first offense for marijuana paraphernalia possession in Nebraska is an infraction punishable by up to a $100 fine. However, each subsequent conviction is punishable by a fine of between $200 and $500
  • The sale of marijuana paraphernalia is a misdemeanor that attracts up to a $1,000 fine and/or a prison sentence of up to six months
  • Advertising marijuana paraphernalia is punishable by up to three months of incarceration and/or up to a $500 fine. It is considered a misdemeanor in Nebraska
  • The sale of marijuana paraphernalia to a minor (under 18) is also considered a misdemeanor whose conviction attracts up to one year of jail term and/or no more than a $1,000 fine

Driving Under The Influence (DUI) Of Marijuana In Nebraska

Penalties for marijuana DUI in Nebraska include fines, prison sentences, and driver's license suspension, and the punishments increase with each additional DUI conviction. For instance:

  • For a marijuana DUI first offense, the offender risks a $500 fine, between seven and 60 days of incarceration, and a six-month driver's license suspension. An offender who is granted probation can avoid prison and be penalized only with 60 days of license suspension. However, the offender must install and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) as a condition of probation during the license revocation period
  • Anyone who commits a second marijuana DUI offense risks a $500 fine, 18 months of license suspension, and between 30 days to six months of imprisonment. If the offender is granted probation, they can obtain a restricted IID license after 45 days. However, they must pay the $500 fine and either complete a 240-hour of community service or serve 10 days in prison
  • A third conviction for marijuana DUI in Nebraska is punishable by a 15-year driver's license suspension, a jail term of between 90 days to one year, and a $1,000 fine

Confiscation Of Assets

In Nebraska, property used to produce, sell, manufacture, transport, deliver, or distribute marijuana can be confiscated and forfeited to the state. Such assets may include books, motor vehicles, cash, airplanes, and records, including tapes, data, and microfilm.

Possible Remedies For Defendants Of Violating Nebraska Marijuana Laws

  • The defendants can claim the evidence presented against them was fabricated, especially in cases where law enforcement officers fail to conduct themselves properly. For instance, if a police officer falsified witnessing a traffic violation to pull the defendant over or marijuana was planted in the defendant's home or vehicle
  • The defendant can take advantage of a mistake of fact. For instance, if cannabis was found in a shared apartment or inside a car with other passengers, the defendant could argue the substance belonged to another person. This works especially when the prosecutor cannot categorically prove the defendant was in direct possession of marijuana at the time of the arrest
  • Defendants can also argue that their rights were violated during their arrests. For example, if the defendant's rights were not read to them before questioning or the accused was arrested at an illegal traffic stop, they may claim a rights violation
  • Defendants could claim the search that led to marijuana discovery was illegal

What is Nebraska’s Cannabis History?

Marijuana has been illegal in Nebraska for several decades. However, there have been efforts to legalize it in the state, but all failed. For instance, in 2020, attempts to put a Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative on the November 2020 ballot failed. The initiative would have legalized medical marijuana for individuals living with certain debilitating conditions and established a legal framework for access to medicinal cannabis. However, before November 2020, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in favor of Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner, who had filed a lawsuit asking the court to strike out the proposed initiative from the November 2020 ballot.

Arrangements to put another medical marijuana legalization initiative on the November 2022 ballot also failed. The initiative failed to gather the required number of signatures to place the two medical cannabis access proposals on the ballot. In January 2023, Senator Anna Wishart introduced Legislative Bill 588, a bill seeking to legalize the medical use of marijuana in Nebraska. This bill is currently with the Judiciary Committee. Also, Senator Terrel Mckinney introduced Legislative Bill 634 in January 2023. If enacted, LB 634 would have legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults aged 21 years or older in Nebraska.

What are Restrictions on Cannabis in Nebraska?

All marijuana activities are prohibited in Nebraska as the state has yet to legalize cannabis. It is illegal to use, cultivate, sell, purchase, transport, deliver, distribute, or manufacture marijuana in the state.

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