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Marijuana: Nebraska Legislature Passes Stiffer Decrim Penalties, Bill Heads to Governor's Desk

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #532)
Drug War Issues

The Nebraska legislature Tuesday gave its approval to a measure that will increase the penalties for small-time marijuana possession in the Cornhusker state. Under Nebraska's current marijuana decriminalization statute, in place since 1979, first-time possession of less than an ounce of weed is punishable by no more than a $100 fine, $200 for a second offense, and $300 for a third offense.

Under Legislative Bill 844, the maximum fine for first-time possession of less than an ounce will be $300, $400 for a second offense, and $500 for a third offense. The measure would also increase the maximum penalty for possession of more than an ounce, but less than a pound. Under current law, violators face a $500 fine and up to a week in jail. Under the new law, the fine would remain the same, but the maximum jail sentence would increase dramatically to three months.

The bill was introduced by State Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilbur, who argued that fines should be increased because they are not as stiff as those facing minors caught possessing alcohol. In Nebraska, drinking under 21 can get you 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. The marijuana decrim penalties apply to both minors and adults.

Karpisek's reasoning must have appealed to his fellow legislators. The upward revision of decrim penalties passed on a 40-2 vote.

In 2006, there were 7,416 arrests and citations made for marijuana possession, sale and manufacture, according to the Nebraska Crime Commission. The commission did not break down those figures, but assuming roughly 90% of arrests and citations were for simple possession -- about the national average -- that means the state of Nebraska stands to see its pot fine revenues increase from somewhere around $600,000 a year to $1.8 million.

Nice racket.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

I went and testified against this bill. When Sen. Karpisek introduced it, he claimed that teenagers in NE use marijuana because it is "less criminal" than minor in possession; and that marijuana makes people violent. He was advocating much harsher penalties that what we ended up with, and was supported by drug and alcohol treatment centers in his district (who also testified in favor of his bill).
I argued that increasing the penalties for non-violent adults to deter children was not properly tailored legislation, that marijuana does not kill anyone, that increasing its penalties assures that children will have greater access to it than alcohol, and that there are huge civil costs of marijuana prosecution that most young people are aware of. I spent a large amount of time answering questions about the loss of federal student loan funding for people who are convicted, since it appears that my state senators had no idea that existed. In fact, Sen. Karpisek referred to it in his closing remarks and essentially called me a liar.
I had hoped that there would be more opposition, but only two other people testified against it, and I didn't have time to organize a full-fledged attack. I went to the hearing wearing my suit, emphasizing that the increased penalties were in my business interests as a defense attorney, but morally I can't agree with them.

Mon, 04/21/2008 - 2:55pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Susan, Since the laws have change I have noticed that some judges still only go the $100 fine and court cost $44.
Some others on the other hand that are "not" what I call Judicially prudent (Judge M.Doyle), have given the maximum amount on the fine. I know one for sure was a minority. The law has its roots in racism! State Sen. Ted whos district has the hight percentage increase in mexicans. Why was marijuana first made illegal. The states down south wanted to get rid of the mecican population. What a shame, history has repeated itself and we have let it by putting into officer a bunch of red necks. Yes rasism is alive in Nebraska. I have lived here all my life and how the state got rid of Sen. Chambers is a shame. The petitioners for term limits even stated you want to get rid of Ernie sign the petition along with some other statements. You see I white county and can fit in with that crown and they just don'r understand that all white people are not racist. Buy the way you can tell Sen. Ed that not all mexicans smoke marijuana! He won't be able to comprehend it.

Sun, 01/04/2009 - 1:37am Permalink
Anonymous420 (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Columbus, NE

I read everyday in paper about possession under 1 ounce, $300 EVERY SINGLE TIME. Nebraska's way to milk the cash cow right before the gates close.

Sun, 05/02/2010 - 7:21pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I wonder when the cigarettes will be banned in the United States ? Oh and the drunk drivers to kill more innocent people. The effect of alcholism that causes dangerous situations on the road is illegal but yet alchohol is legal. Doen't make sense to me. Do Nebraskans have the right to vote against this or just the senators? In California cops (not all) pull bongs from the trunks of there cruisers and smoke pot ! I know because I smoked with them :) They rather see the harsher stuff illegal. It's the end of the world as we know it. I cant wait till the next civil war if we make it after bombing Iran now ! I have seen Nebraskan senators drunk and driving in Lincoln. They get pulled over by police and let go without any citation or arrests. Go senator power !!!

Wed, 06/25/2008 - 4:43am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

With all the curent economic problems we face today i am astounded that we have time for this in congress. It is true that there is alot of mistery about pot. Some people are so ignorent about it that they think it makes people violent. So vote at your local elections. Pro marijuana voters outnumber the criminalization activists. But you are all lazy. And you dont vote. There is a reason that republicans dont want to teach civics in our highschools. People like this are in our government because we dont vote. The bush admin has made decriminalization of marijuana sway into a new direction by saying that it funds terrists. (I am shure no more than his personal business ethics with oil) VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Find an organization that promotes and educates people about marijuana. Give them some money. If all marijuana users gave 100 dollars a year to campane for legalization, Marijuana would be legal over night.

Wed, 07/16/2008 - 2:47pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

that guy from wilbur? yea he's definately not too intelligent. Pot makes you violent? Ifaything it makes you mello and relaxed, viloence is the last thing on a stoners mind. John DeCamp please run for senator!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! we need someone with some intelligence!

Tue, 07/22/2008 - 1:56am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

This is a bunch of bs. I wish i could find this guy and make him smoke a j with me. Then he'd know wtf it does to you. It makes you mellow and relaxed, not violent. The only harmful thing i see coming from marijuana is the fact that you can be put in jail and fined for it. All that does is tears families apart. I've seen a hell of a lot of people die from alcohol poisoning and abuse. But i've never heard of anyone dieing over smokin' some mary jane. It's about time we got some regular people in our government who actually know what it's like in the real world instead of all of these rich pricks who could give a shit less about it.

Wed, 10/01/2008 - 9:28pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

well i dont think some one should be juged because thay smoke it you dont get violent it helps pain is not like your gona kill some one to get it the drama about weed has bin blown into more i have behavor problems and i chilled anoth to do work i tock to learn my spelling was 20 times worss than this before i became a pot head in all it not that bad and all thes kids that get hold of weed and then blame all ther bad deeds on it then shoot them thay are lying thanks 4 reading love to all sammi jowanna

Wed, 12/17/2008 - 9:06am Permalink

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