Marijuana crimes in Nebraska are taken very seriously by both the state and federal government. Even though cannabis has been legalized across much of the country, Nebraska is still very much behind the times when it comes to marijuana policy. Unfortunately, the prohibition of marijuana is still the law of the land and the criminalization of cannabis is still heavily prosecuted across the state. These crimes range from misdemeanors to felonies, where felonies result in much harsher penalties and long-term consequences.

Omaha Marijuana Defense Attorneys

At Liberty Law Group, our firm is dedicated to fighting Nebraska’s unjust prohibition on cannabis, one case at a time. Our experienced and skilled criminal defense lawyers will vehemently pursue the most favorable outcome possible in each case we handle. Sometimes this means taking a case all the way to a jury trial in either state or federal court. Our firm proudly serves the communities of Omaha in Douglas County, Lincoln in Lancaster County, Pappillion in Sarpy County, Nebraska and Council Bluffs in Pattawattamie County, Iowa and surrounding areas. If you or a loved one has been arrested and/or charged with a marijuana or THC-related criminal offense, call our firm at (402) 865-0501 to request a free consultation with one of our attorneys. We are standing by and ready to help.

Below, Liberty Law Group will explore the specific types of marijuana crimes in Nebraska, including the penalties and potential alternatives to imprisonment. Understanding the defenses against those charges is crucial, and we’ll discuss why individuals facing marijuana-related accusations can greatly benefit from the knowledge of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Facing charges for marijuana-related offenses does not automatically mean you are guilty and will go to jail. The distinction between being accused and being found guilty is a significant one because it opens up opportunities for skilled marijuana defense attorneys to provide substantial assistance.

Nebraska Marijuana Law Information Center

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What Is Marijuana?

In Nebraska law, marijuana is defined as all parts of the cannabis plant, including seeds. This covers any form made from the plant, like mixtures or derivatives. However, some parts of the plant, like the mature stalks and seeds that can’t grow, are not considered marijuana. Hemp, a type of cannabis with low THC, is not classified as marijuana under this law. When the law talks about the weight of marijuana in legal situations, it refers to the weight when it’s seized, no matter if it’s dried or not. The law also identifies concentrated cannabis, including THC concentrates. This includes the resin (a sticky substance) from the cannabis plant or any concentrate product with more than 10% THC.

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Specific Types of Marijuana Offenses in Nebraska

  • Marijuana Possession – According to the Nebraska statute §28-416, marijuana possession refers to the act of knowingly or intentionally possessing marijuana. This includes any amount of marijuana or any substance that contains any amount of the chemicals, substances, or compounds described in subdivision (c)(27) of Schedule I of section §28-405. The classification of marijuana possession varies based on the quantity possessed: possession of less than an ounce is usually an infraction ($300 fine); possession of more than one ounce but not more than one pound is classified as a Class III misdemeanor; possession of more than one pound is a Class IV felony; possession of one ounce or less is treated differently depending on the number of offenses – for the first offense, it’s an infraction with a fine and a possible course requirement, the second offense is a Class IV misdemeanor, and the third and subsequent offenses are Class IIIA misdemeanors.
  • Marijuana Manufacturing (Cultivation) – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-416, marijuana manufacturing refers to the unlawful act of knowingly or intentionally cultivating, manufacturing, distributing, delivering, dispensing, or possessing with intent to manufacture, distribute, deliver, or dispense marijuana, except when allowed by the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. The specific classification of marijuana manufacturing under this law depends on the amount of marijuana involved. Possession of more than one pound is classified as a Class IV felony, while possessing more than one ounce but not more than one pound is classified as a Class III misdemeanor. Additionally, the classification of offense for possessing marijuana weighing one ounce or less ranges from an infraction to a Class IIIA misdemeanor.
  • Marijuana Possession with Intent to Distribute – Under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-416, marijuana possession with intent to distribute refers to the act of possessing marijuana with the knowledge and intention of manufacturing, distributing, delivering, or dispensing it. The classification of the offense varies depending on the circumstances and the amount of the substance involved. Generally, the offense is classified as a Class IIA felony. However, this classification can escalate based on factors like proximity to schools or involvement of minors.
  • Possession of THC Concentrates – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-401, Possession of THC concentrates in Nebraska refers to the act of having control over substances containing a concentration of tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) exceeding 10% by weight, derived from the cannabis plant. This offense is typically categorized as a Class IV felony under Nebraska law. These regulations apply to various THC concentrate forms, including edibles, hash oil, vapes, and THC-infused products.
  • Delta-8 THC Products – Hemp-derived delta-8 THC products have become increasingly popular in retail markets where prohibition is still law, including Nebraska. Natural THC, known as delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol, occurs naturally in cannabis and in a far lesser concentration in hemp. Hemp products containing less than 0.3% delta-9 THC were federally legalized under the 2018 farm bill. However, delta-8 and delta-10 THC products were not addressed. State and county governments across the country have tried to manage this issue in different ways. Nebraska is cracking down on delta-8 THC retailers due to concerns about mislabeling and chemical contents in the products.
  • Felony Marijuana Charges – As defined by Nebraska Revised Statute §28-416, Felony marijuana charges encompass unlawful acts related to the manufacture, distribution, delivery, dispensing, or possession with intent of marijuana. These charges can be classified as Class IV felonies for possession of marijuana weighing more than one pound, or higher classifications for more serious violations involving distribution or manufacturing, particularly in proximity to minors or certain public places.
  • Federal Marijuana Charges – Federal marijuana possession, according to 21 U.S.C. §844, is the unlawful act of knowingly or intentionally possessing marijuana without lawful authorization such as a valid prescription or order from a practitioner. The law delineates penalties based on the nature and frequency of the offense, ranging from fines to varying terms of imprisonment, depending on prior convictions or specific substances involved. First offenses are typically misdemeanors, where individuals face up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

    Federal marijuana charges under 21 U.S.C. §841 involve the illegal manufacture, distribution, dispensing, or possession with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense marijuana. Specifically, the law classifies federal marijuana charges based on the quantity of marijuana involved. For example, selling or cultivating 1,000 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing any amount of marijuana, or 1,000 or more marijuana plants, can result in a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life imprisonment.

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Penalties For Violating Nebraska State Drug Laws

Misdemeanor Fines and Jail Terms

According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-106, the following penalties for misdemeanor offenses apply:

  • Class V Misdemeanor – up to a $100 fine.
  • Class IV Misdemeanor – up to a $500 fine.
  • Class IIIA Misdemeanor – up to 7 days in jail and/or up to a $500 fine.
  • Class III Misdemeanor – up to 90 days in jail and/or up to a $500 fine.
  • Class II Misdemeanor – up to 6 months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.
  • Class I Misdemeanor – up to 1 year in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.

Misdemeanor charges are normally brought in county courts in Nebraska. For example, in Omaha, individuals face misdemeanor charges in Douglas County Court. In Lincoln, individuals face misdemeanor charges in Lancaster County Court.

Felony Fines and Jail Terms

According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-105, the following penalties for felony offenses apply:

  • Class IV Felony – 0-2 years in prison followed by 9-12 months of post-release supervision and/or up to a $10,000 fine.
  • Class IIIA Felony – 0-3 years in prison followed by 9-18 months of post-release supervision and/or up to a $10,000 fine.
  • Class III Felony – 0-4 years in prison followed by 9-24 months of post-release supervision and/or up to a $25,000 fine.
  • Class IIA Felony – 0-20 years in prison
  • Class II Felony – 1-50 years in prison
  • Class ID Felony – 3-50 years in prison
  • Class IC Felony – 5-50 years in prison
  • Class IB Felony – 20 years to life in prison
  • Class IA Felony – life in prison
  • Class I Felony – death sentence

Felony charges are brought in district courts in Nebraska.

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Collateral Consequences of a Drug Crime Conviction

In Nebraska, a marijuana conviction can lead to a range of other consequences, extending beyond legal penalties. These consequences often impact various aspects of a person’s life. Employment opportunities can be significantly affected, as employers may hesitate to hire individuals with drug convictions. Similarly, educational opportunities may be limited, with some schools having policies against admitting students with drug-related criminal records. Housing options can also become restricted, particularly in public housing or rental situations where background checks are routine.

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Alternatives To Jail For A Marijuana Offense

Probation – In Nebraska, probation serves as a legal substitute for imprisonment, allowing individuals convicted of marijuana offenses to remain in the community under specified conditions, rather than serving time in jail. It is typically granted to those who the court believes will abide by the law outside of prison. However, probation is not available for habitual criminals or those convicted of felonies with a mandatory minimum sentence. The duration of probation can extend up to five years for felonies or second-offense misdemeanors and two years for first-offense misdemeanors.

Under Nebraska Revised Statute §29-2262, probation conditions are designed for rehabilitation and public safety. These conditions vary but commonly include abstaining from unlawful behavior, upholding family responsibilities, and maintaining employment or education. Additionally, probation may involve periodic jail confinement, mandatory rehabilitation or counseling sessions, and restrictions on visiting certain places or associating with specific individuals. Individuals must generally remain within the court’s jurisdiction, report changes in address or employment, and regularly check in with the court or a probation officer. Financial obligations can encompass fines, drug or alcohol test costs, and victim restitution. Community service and participation in correctional programs are also frequent requirements.

According to Nebraska Revised Statutes §29-2263 and §29-2264, successfully completing probation allows individuals to petition the court to set aside their conviction, effectively nullifying it and lifting certain civil disabilities. However, this does not erase the conviction entirely and it may still impact future legal proceedings. Failure to adhere to probation conditions can lead to serious consequences. Under Nebraska Revised Statutes §29-2266.01 to §29-2266.03, violations can result in administrative sanctions or formal revocation proceedings.

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Specific Post-Plea and Pre-Plea Programs In Nebraska

In Nebraska, various legal provisions address the treatment and rehabilitation of individuals charged with offenses, particularly those involving substance abuse, such as marijuana crimes. The Nebraska Revised Statutes §24-1301 – §24-1302 establish Problem Solving Courts focusing on substance abuse, mental health, reintegration post-incarceration, and domestic violence. Those programs are for individuals adjudicated guilty or who have pleaded guilty.

In Douglas and Lancaster Counties, the Adult Drug Court targets non-violent felony offenders with substance abuse issues, offering an alternative to incarceration. This 18-24 month program includes substance abuse treatment, frequent court hearings, and support group participation. Successful participants may have their charges dismissed. Also, the Veterans Treatment Court in the same counties caters to veterans with felony offenses related to substance use or mental health issues. This court provides comprehensive rehabilitation, including mental health treatment, education, and employment programs, with successful graduates potentially having their charges dismissed or reduced. Finally, for young adults aged 18-24 in Douglas County, the Young Adult Court offers an alternative sentencing approach for non-violent felony offenses, focusing on rehabilitation.

Lancaster County offers Pretrial Diversion Programs for certain misdemeanors and felonies, aiming to address the causes of criminal behavior. Successful completion typically leads to case dismissal. Non-violent offenses related to a substance-dependent lifestyle or mental health challenges are generally eligible. The Treatment Diversion Program in Lancaster County is designed for non-violent offenses, focusing on mental health and substance use challenges. Veterans Diversion Program in the same county caters to veterans with trauma spectrum disorders linked to military service. Intensive Supervision Diversion offers a flexible approach for non-violent felonies related to substance use. Mental Health Diversion, targeting misdemeanor charges and some non-violent felonies, emphasizes recovery through case management and community support. The General Diversion Program provides an alternative for most misdemeanor offenses and limited felony offenses, with eligibility varying based on prior legal interventions.

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How Marijuana Crimes Are Investigated

In Nebraska, the investigation of marijuana-related crimes often involves a multifaceted approach, adhering to state laws and regulations. Law enforcement agencies typically initiate investigations based on tips, observed violations, or during routine traffic stops. When probable cause is established, such as through the detection of marijuana odor or visible evidence, officers may proceed with a search, following the Fourth Amendment requirements. The Nebraska Revised Statute 28-416 explicitly outlines the illegalities surrounding marijuana possession, distribution, and cultivation. During the investigation, law enforcement officers may collect physical evidence, such as the marijuana itself, paraphernalia, or cultivation equipment. Additionally, they often gather testimonies or statements from witnesses or suspects. The collected evidence is then used to support charges, if any, and is crucial in the legal process that follows. Investigations are conducted with an emphasis on adherence to legal procedures to ensure any subsequent criminal proceedings are based on legally obtained evidence.

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How Marijuana Crimes Are Prosecuted In Nebraska

In Nebraska, the prosecution of marijuana-related crimes follows specific procedures, which vary based on whether the offense is categorized as a misdemeanor or a felony. Marijuana misdemeanors are processed in county courts. The typical procedure begins with a law enforcement investigation, which may result in an arrest or the issuance of a summons and complaint; in simpler cases, a citation might be issued. If an arrest occurs, the individual faces a bond hearing, followed by an arraignment in county court. Alternatively, if a summons and complaint are issued, the individual directly attends the arraignment.

At the arraignment, the accused has the option to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. A guilty or no contest plea leads to sentencing, potentially involving fines, jail time, or probation. If the plea is not guilty, the individual will face either a bench trial or a jury trial. A guilty verdict at trial results in sentencing, while a not guilty verdict leads to acquittal.

Felony marijuana offenses initially proceed in county courts, then move to district courts. The process starts with a law enforcement investigation, potentially leading to an arrest or the filing of a felony complaint in county court. This is followed by a bond hearing/rights advisement, and then a preliminary hearing. Post-preliminary hearing, the case can be dismissed or bound over to district court.

In district court, following the filing of an “Information,” the individual attends an arraignment. Here, the individual can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. A plea of guilty or no contest leads to a presentence investigation and subsequent sentencing, which may include fines, jail, or probation. A not guilty plea results in scheduling a bench trial or jury trial. After a trial, a guilty verdict initiates a presentence investigation before sentencing, while a not guilty verdict results in acquittal.

In Nebraska, arrests for marijuana crimes can occur with or without a warrant. In warrant situations, the prosecutor presents a judge with a sworn statement from a law enforcement officer, leading to the issuance of a warrant and the registration of a formal complaint if probable cause is established. In scenarios without a warrant, the arresting officer must provide a statement justifying the arrest within 48 hours. The court reviews this for probable cause; absence of probable cause leads to the release of the individual, while established probable cause results in setting bail and filing a formal complaint.

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Possible Defenses that Could Apply in Marijuana Cases

  • Lack of Knowledge or Intent – In Nebraska, a common defense for marijuana crimes is asserting the lack of knowledge or intent to commit the crime. This defense basically challenges the prosecution’s requirement to prove that the defendant knowingly or intentionally possessed, manufactured, or distributed marijuana. It is particularly relevant in situations where marijuana was found in a shared space, and the defendant had no direct control or awareness of its presence.
  • Fourth Amendment Violations – Another defense strategy involves challenging the legality of law enforcement’s search and seizure methods. The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. If marijuana was discovered during an illegal search—such as one conducted without a valid warrant or probable cause—the evidence obtained might be inadmissible in court. This defense can lead to the dismissal of the charges if the primary evidence against the defendant is excluded.
  • Entrapment The defense of entrapment is applicable when a defendant was induced to commit a crime they would not have ordinarily committed, due to law enforcement persuasion or coercion. In marijuana cases, this defense could be relevant if, for example, an undercover officer unduly pressured or enticed the defendant into committing a marijuana-related offense, such as distribution or manufacturing.
  • Mistaken Identity or False Accusations – Defendants may also argue mistaken identity or false accusations. This defense means that the defendant was wrongly identified as the perpetrator of the marijuana crime or was falsely accused. Evidence such as alibis, witness testimony, or surveillance footage could support this defense, particularly in cases of alleged distribution or cultivation.
  • Insufficient Evidence – The defense of insufficient evidence is commonly employed in criminal cases, including marijuana offenses. This defense argues that the prosecution has failed to provide enough evidence to meet the burden of proof for a conviction. The defendant does not necessarily have to prove their innocence but rather can highlight the weaknesses or gaps in the prosecution’s case.

Each of these defenses can be critical in a marijuana case in Nebraska, and their applicability and effectiveness depend on the specifics of each individual’s case. A skilled criminal defense attorney can evaluate the circumstances and advise a defendant on the most appropriate defense strategy.

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How A Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help Someone In A Nebraska Marijuana Case

Legal Representation

A criminal defense attorney in Nebraska can provide invaluable legal representation and support for individuals charged with marijuana crimes. The lawyer can help the individual better understand Nebraska’s drug laws and help ensure that the accused’s rights are protected throughout the legal process. This includes representing the client in court, negotiating with prosecutors, and presenting a strong defense. The attorney’s knowledge of the local legal system and experience with similar cases can be important in achieving a favorable outcome.

Developing Defense Strategies

Based on the specifics of the marijuana charge, a criminal defense attorney can develop effective defense strategies. These strategies might include challenging the prosecution’s evidence, arguing for the inadmissibility of illegally obtained evidence, or presenting mitigating factors that could lead to reduced charges or penalties. For example, in cases of marijuana possession, the attorney might argue lack of intent or knowledge, especially in situations where marijuana was found in a shared space.

Negotiating Plea Bargains

In some cases, the best course of action might be to negotiate a plea bargain. A skilled criminal defense attorney can negotiate with prosecutors to reduce the charges or penalties faced by the accused. This could involve reducing a felony charge to a misdemeanor or negotiating for a lesser sentence.

Assisting with Sentencing Alternatives

A criminal defense attorney can also assist clients in exploring sentencing alternatives to incarceration, such as probation or participation in drug treatment programs. Nebraska law provides for various alternatives, and an attorney can help in pursuing a client’s eligibility and admission in these programs, potentially leading to a much more favorable outcome than imprisonment.

Advising on Collateral Consequences

Finally, a criminal defense attorney can advise clients on the collateral consequences of a marijuana conviction, such as impacts on employment and professional licensure. The attorney can also assist in mitigating these consequences, such as through expungement or other legal remedies available in the state of Nebraska.

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Additional Resources for Marijuana Law and Cannabis Policy Reform

Nebraska Marijuana Laws – Summary of the current state of marijuana laws in Nebraska. Details on laws prohibiting marijuana possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana. For more information, visit the Nebraska Cannabis Information Portal.

Nebraska Laws and Penalties – NORML – The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is a national non-profit organization advocating for adult consumers of cannabis. The organization supports ending the prohibition of marijuana and has been successful in many states across the country. Visit this site to learn about the laws and penalties in Nebraska.

Nebraska Marijuana Decriminalization, Legalization – Nebraska Legislature debated marijuana legalization and decriminalization earlier this year. For more information on legalization efforts, follow the Unicameral Update, Nebraska Legislature’s Official news source.

Nebraskans For Medical Marijuana – Grassroots campaign for the legalization of medical marijuana. The campaign is collecting signatures for a ballot measure and has supported prior legislative efforts to make medical marijuana legal.

Nebraska Senators Propose Recreational Marijuana Legalization – Nebraska Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the legalization of Marijuana recreationally. Possible law to be introduced for a full vote. For more information follow the Nebraska Legislature.

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Hiring a Marijuana Defense Attorney in Nebraska | Liberty Law Group

At Liberty Law Group, we consider anyone who has been arrested for marijuana to be a victim of prohibition. Our team fights to protect the rights of marijuana consumers in Nebraska and beyond so the negative impact on their lives can be reduced to the absolute minimum. Our firm proudly serves the communities of Omaha in Douglas County, Lincoln in Lancaster County, Papillion in Sarpy County, Nebraska and Council Bluffs in Pattawattamie County, Iowa and surrounding areas. If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a marijuana-related offenses, please call our firm immediately at (402) 865-0501 to request a free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney. We are standing by and ready to help with your defense.

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