Updated on December 9, 2017. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
In a nutshell, there are no Nebraska medical marijuana qualifications because there’s no medical cannabis program in the state. Thanks to a legislature that continues to ignore the facts when it comes to the benefits of marijuana and a governor who is very anti-cannabis, patients still don’t have access to medical weed. They either have to go to Colorado and get their medicine (risking federal prosecution for transporting a “controlled substance” across state lines), or they have to purchase it illegally — and it doesn’t look like the situation will change in the near future.
Even though 60 percent of Nebraskans believe severely ill people should have access to medicinal cannabis, Gov. Pete Ricketts continues to be an immovable roadblock. Ricketts has voiced his opposition to any medical marijuana program time and time again and has repeatedly vowed to veto any bill crossing his desk that proposes a sensible policy.
But that doesn’t mean that legislators haven’t tried to pass medical marijuana legislation in the past. As recently as 2017, state senators worked together to introduce a bill that would make medical cannabis available to people suffering from 19 different conditions and would also set up a system of manufacturing and distribution. Patients would have been prohibited from smoking or cultivating plants, but at least they would have been able to use cannabis-based oils, liquids, lotions, capsules and vaporizers.
The bill never had a chance. Even though it passed a legislative committee 6-1, it never made it to a vote.
There are a lot of people fed up with the attitude of the governor and other state leaders. A group known as Legal Marijuana Now (LMN) is pushing to get candidates with pro-cannabis views into elections and to spread the word that people who favor a sensible medical marijuana program need to vote Ricketts and other obstructionists out of office once and for all.
The reason the organization is taking this approach is that it is extremely difficult to get an initiative on the ballot. Those in charge of deciding what initiatives are approved have a great deal of leeway, and they can easily deny petitions as a result. For example, an LMN spokesman said that the group had turned in 9,000 valid signatures to get medical marijuana on the 2016 ballot, even though they only needed 5,600. State officials threw out 5,000 signatures, killing the ballot initiative effort as a result.
So, instead, LMN leaders are choosing to go straight to the grass-roots rather than wasting their time with another initiative effort.
Even though Ricketts and many state legislators continue to wear blinders when it comes to the benefits of medicinal cannabis, there are actually some people in positions of authority in Nebraska who have a clue. For example, the state recently ruled that first-time offenders caught with a small amount of weed (up to an ounce) would not be immediately thrown in jail. Instead, they are given a $300 fine and may have to complete a course on drug education.
If someone commits a second offense and possesses an ounce or less of pot, he or she will have to pay a fine of $400 and will have to spend as long as five days in jail. A third offense can lead to up to seven days in jail and a fine of $500.
But even though state leaders showed at least a little common sense in this instance, there were still more than 7,700 arrests and/or citations for marijuana possession in 2012 alone. And African-Americans, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, are five times as likely to be arrested for weed possession than whites. This disparity exists despite the fact that both races use cannabis at about the same rate.
While we applaud the efforts of those trying to bring about positive change, we doubt very seriously that any Nebraska medical marijuana qualifications will be set in the near future. It’s all but certain that those in power will continue to deny medical cannabis to those who need it the most. But we’ll keep track of developments and let you know what happens, so check back with MarijuanaDoctors.com on a regular basis.
If LB 622 is passed, Nebraska would adopt the Medical Cannabis Act. This could lead to the establishment of Compassion Centers and dispensaries in the state of Nebraska. Marijuana Doctors will keep patients in Nebraska updated as this legislation is debated.