‘Prohibition isn’t working’: Nebraska senators propose legalizing recreational marijuana

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Marijuana was the big topic at the Capitol on Thursday, with a hearing on two bills that would legalize recreational use and sales in Nebraska.

LB 22, by Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, would decriminalize use and possession of the drug.

LB 634, by Sen. Terrell McKinney of Omaha would allow for the sale of cannabis to anyone over 21.

“The federal government continues to cling on, as it does today, to a policy that has origins in racism, xenophobia, and whose principal effect has been to ruin the lives of many generations of people,” McKinney said.

LB 634 would also focus on helping people of color and low-income individuals, who McKinney said are disproportionately targeted for possession of marijuana by law enforcement.

Some testifiers said Nebraskans have wanted these bills for years.

“The polls show consistently, the people of the state want cannabis legal in some form,” said Spike Eickholt with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska. “You may not like the forms of these bills, but ultimately, what might happen is that the voters are just going to approve something you really don’t like, and then you’re going to be stuck with it.”

SEE ALSO: Supporters tell Nebraska lawmakers marijuana is safe medical option, not ‘devil lettuce’

One concern brought up by the opposition was how the black market contributes to marijuana sales.

“The black market is alive and well in states that have legal marijuana and in states that have illegal marijuana,” said Col. John Bolduc, the superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol. “I believe one of the testifiers suggested that it’s easy to access and it’s affordable. That’s true.”

Bolduc said if the bills are passed, the black market would undercut legitimate businesses.

Lorelle Mueting of Heartland Family Service said legalization would put the safety of everyone in the state at risk.

“When people use it more, we will inevitably see more impairment problems that affect more than just the person using,” Mueting said. “Marijuana is a psychoactive substance, which means it causes a high, and when under the influence of THC, a person does not have the ability to make good decisions.”

Under the legislation, the drug would be taxed, which supporters said could bring millions in revenue to the state.

“Prohibitionists must understand that prohibition isn’t working, hasn’t worked and never will work,” Jerry Moler said.

The Judiciary Committee only heard testimony on the bills, but it could vote on them as early as next week.

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