Nebraska Cannabis Laws

Is Cannabis Legal In Nebraska?
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StateRecreationalMedical MarijuanaCBD

Federal Law:

Recreational Medical MarijuanaCBD

Is recreational cannabis legal in Nebraska?

No. Recreational adult-use is illegal in Nebraska and has remained so since it was prohibited in 1927

Nebraska wasn’t always so restrictive with cannabis culture; in 1969, the state eased penalties for cannabis possession, limiting first-time possession offenses to less than a week in jail. Then around 1978-1979, cannabis was further decriminalized to a civil infraction for first-time offenders. While there was momentum in the 1960s-1970s with decriminalization, there has been little legalization progress since.

In recent years, Nebraska has continued to show their ire for legalization when they were among Colorado’s neighboring states to sue the state after they legalized recreational adult-use. Nebraska saw spikes in cannabis arrests after legalization and sought to file an action, but the U.S. Supreme Court struck down these repeated requests from 2014-2016. 

Lawmakers still won’t back down, recently proposing an amendment to the Nebraska constitution, to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older. This is the most hopeful route, as, under a legislative resolution, the voter will be able to decide on a proposed amendment 

Is Medical Marijuana legal in Nebraska?

No. Medical marijuana is illegal in Nebraska. Unfortunately, every attempt to legalize has been filibustered by the state Senate. The last attempt was in 2015, with Nebraska’s Cannabis Compassion Care Act, LB643.

If passed, the LB643 would’ve allowed qualified patients with a prescription who suffer from severe/terminal illnesses to use medical marijuana products in liquid or pill form.

Most recently, the Nebraska Supreme Cout stripped a medical marijuana initiative of a ballot before the 2020 election. 

Are CBD products legal in Nebraska? 

Yes. Since the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, hemp-derived CBD products are legal under federal law in the United States, as long as they contain at most 0.3% THC. 

Any and all CBD in food and drink is still federally illegal.

Nebraska’s Cannabis Timeline:

1887: First crops of industrial hemp are grown in Fremont, Nebraska. 

1927: Nebraska’s cannabis prohibition starts. 

1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.

1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, This act set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession. 

1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist, was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act because the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth.”) The court’s unanimous opinion was penned by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.

1969: Nebraska eases penalties for cannabis possession, limiting first-time possession offenses to less than a week in jail. 

1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. 

This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions are based on its potential for abuse, accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and international treaties.

Classification of Controlled Substances:

Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use

Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use

Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

1978-1979: Marijuana in Nebraska is decriminalized to a civil infraction for first-time offenders.

1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws created, including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the promotion of the death penalty to be used against “drug kingpins.”

1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs.  

2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

2014-2016: Nebraska’s request to file an original action against the State of Colorado, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Colorado’s legalization of cannabis, is denied.

2015: Nebraska’s Cannabis Compassion Care Act, LB643, fails in the state Senate. 

2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act.
2021: Nebraska State Senator Introduces Recreational Marijuana Legalization Amendment

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