Marijuana Policy

February 5, 2021

Our state’s current marijuana laws are bad policy. They criminalize good people. They waste millions in taxpayer dollars, and they’re disproportionately used against people of color.

This last year, we had an opportunity to fix that bad policy. Over 100,000 Nebraskans from across the state agreed that the people should decide whether to keep our antiquated prohibition laws on the books. But then – conservative activist judges on the Nebraska Supreme Court stepped well outside of their responsibility and told the people of Nebraska that they wouldn’t be allowed to vote on legalization. All because of a wording issue. Please.

Almost as concerning is the fact that Republicans in Lincoln – the personal liberty and local control guys – have gone out of their way to prevent cities from changing how they enforce the law. It’s hypocritical to scream about local control of policy on one hand and then turn around and prevent local control because of one’s personal or moral beliefs.

Now, as your next mayor, I won’t be able to unilaterally overturn state law. And I can’t fix our broken state supreme court. But what I can do is push through legislation to change how we deal with marijuana until voters have another opportunity to fix this problem. The folks who worked to get the marijuana initiative on the ballot in 2020 are taking another run at it this time, and I would bet it makes the ballot in 2022.

On today’s edition of This Week in Omaha, I sit down with Scott Cecil – an Omaha North grad who now serves as a councilmember for the Maryland city of Mount Rainier. We discussed the history of marijuana policy in the city and across the country – and what cities like Mount Rainier have done to bring their enforcement into the 21st century.

Even if you have some kind of moral issue with marijuana, the fact remains that the laws on the books are bad policy. They don’t work, they waste millions of dollars, and they target people of color.

So, what can I do? Well, this week I also released a proposal to bring Omaha’s marijuana enforcement into the 21st century. My plan would involve immediately passing a bill through the city council to give more discretion to police officers on how they handle marijuana. This strategy has been used across the country. And it gives more flexibility to police.

As a teacher, I see the importance of this flexibility every day. If I called out every student with a minor dress code violation, my students would turn on me. The same is true for our police. Let’s give them the power to disregard ticky tacky marijuana charges. It’s one step towards repairing relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect.

My plan would also prohibit police officers from using the dubious “smell of marijuana” excuse to justify searches of homes, vehicles, or individuals. The current rules allow searches which are questionable at best and probably unconstitutional at worst. My plan would fix that problem.

Ultimately, we need full decriminalization or legalization at least on a medical basis. But until then, the City of Omaha should stop wasting money.

If you agree with my plan to modernize our marijuana enforcement, please join my campaign. You can help me get on the ballot, kick in some money, or just tell your friends about our campaign.

I truly appreciate your support and interest in our ideas.

Sincerely,

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Government transparency is as important as it is uncommon. This Week In Omaha is a publication of Gudgel for Mayor. Between our weekly podcast and weekly newsletter, we hope to keep you up to date with Omaha while modeling the sort of transparency that government should offer, now and after we take office.