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Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of the Impact of Nebraska's Decriminalization of Marijuana

NCJ Number
Law and Human Behavior Volume: 5 Issue: 1 Dated: (1981) Pages: 45-71
D L Suggs
Date Published
27 pages
Nebraska's experience with the decriminalization of marijuana indicates that decriminalization tends to increase the effectiveness of society's sanction against proscribed behavior with less cost to the individual and society.
On January 1, 1979, Nebraska decriminalized first-offense possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. Implicit in the new law are the behavioral assumptions that decriminalization of marijuana possession (1) wil not be perceived as more traumatic than the old law, (2) will not lead to an increased use of marijuana, (3) will not cause law enforcement officials to reduce their enforcement efforts, and (4) will not create new problems in the apprehensions and adjudication of marijuana users. These assumptions were examined through interviews, surveys, and statistical analyses of police and court records. The first three assumptions were upheld. However, the final assumption may be questionable. It appears that there are costs associated with decriminalization and that the new law has not lived up to expectations in the area of adjudication. The Nebraska Legislature may wish to change the law to make the mandatory fine a discretionary fine. Finally, study results show that marijuana use does not increase after possession has been decriminalized. Eleven tables of study data and seven references are included.