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Nebraska Bill With 25% Tax Rate On CBD And Consumable Hemp Products Is Dead As Legislative Session Draws To Close



A Nebraska bill containing a provision to set a 25 percent tax rate on hemp and CBD products—down from an initially proposed rate of 100 percent—fell apart this week, with its sponsor acknowledging on the final day of the state’s legislative session that it did not have the votes to overcome a filibuster.

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan (R) asked the measure be pulled from the agenda on Thursday.

“I’m willing to come back this summer, this fall, whenever,” Linehan said during floor debate. “But I hope we have a lot of conversations between now and then about all your perfect answers to this problem. Because it’s easy to say, ‘No, no, no.’ That’s real easy. So everybody who’s saying we can do better, I hope you have those ideas to the Revenue Committee by the end of June.”

The measure, LB 388, is part of a broader debate on how lawmakers want to balance sources of state revenue. Residents, many lawmakers have argued, regularly complain property taxes are too high, and proponents of the bill have said raising sales taxes would prevent further state reliance on property taxes to fund schools. Opponents, however, criticized the bill’s overall increase in taxes, with some Democrats noting that sales taxes in particular would hit poorer Nebraskans hardest.

The failure of the bill and its included hemp and CBD provisions, among a host of other changes, means the legislature is likely headed to a special session to deal with tax issues this summer.

As for the proposed hemp and CBD sales tax hike, Linehan’s initial proposal contained a 100 percent tax rate on CBD and consumable hemp products. An amendment approved last week, however, reduced that rate to 25 percent, which lawmakers said was the result of negotiations with industry representatives,

“The 100% tax was unworkable for CBD companies in our state. They were concerned it would drive them out of business,” Sen. Anna Wishart (D), who’s backed past efforts to end marijuana prohibition in the state, told Marijuana Moment in an email at the time. “In talking with representatives from a group of CBD companies in the state, I worked with them and other senators to negotiate the tax down to 25%.”

Linehan’s office did not respond to Marijuana Moment’s request for comment about the updated tax rate last week, although in March she had told local media that the 100 percent hemp tax proposal was intended as a starting point for negotiations.

“Are we going to keep it 100 percent? No, we’re not,” Linehan said.

Some lawmakers had said in an earlier debate on the proposal that the tax was out of step with rates set on CBD and hemp products in other states and that, if the goal of the bill was to raise revenue, Nebraska should consider legalizing and regulating marijuana.

“I looked around. I saw some statistics on other states—neighboring states—and it’s a lot lower. Definitely not 100 percent,” Sen. Terrell McKinney (D) said. “So we’re not going to be comparable to our neighboring states if we tax it at 100 percent.”

“Honestly speaking, what we really need to have a conversation about in our state, in the state of Nebraska, is our refusal to open ourselves up to other revenue streams,” he continued. “One revenue stream that we should open ourselves up to is the legalization of marijuana.”

Neither medical nor adult-use cannabis are legal in Nebraska, though activists are working to change that this year.

“We have a brain-drain issue,” said Sen. Jen Day (D), “and we refused to recognize that and address it from the other policy perspectives that caused the issues with brain drain—one of those being the fact that we have chosen year after year after year not to legalize even medical cannabis in the state.”

“Through the end of 2022, states have reported a combined total of more than $15 billion in tax revenue from legal adult-use cannabis sales,” she noted.

Adam Morfeld, a former Nebraska state senator who now co-chairs the advocacy group Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, posted to social media ahead of last week’s amendment that the situation showed that the state’s “policies dealing with hemp, CBD and marijuana are so backwards.”

Some lawmakers have lamented that the complex measure’s many provisions seemed to come out of nowhere, although sponsor Linehan and others said on the floor last month that the details were taken from other bills that lawmakers had introduced and debated. The hemp and CBD tax, for instance, ostensibly came out of LB 1341, introduced in January by Sen. Justin Wayne (D) and apparently never acted on by lawmakers.

That bill as introduced indeed would have increased taxes on consumable hemp, but only to 7.5 percent.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,400 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

The proposal comes as the state, like many others across the country, witnesses an explosion of hemp-derived products, including intoxicating cannabinoids such as delta-8 THC. Late last year, the state’s attorney general, Mike Hilgers (R), filed suit against retailers in the state over their sale of delta-8 products.

Meanwhile, activists are hoping to qualify two medical cannabis initiatives for November’s ballot.

A recent poll by the campaign found 70 percent support in the state for legalizing medical marijuana.

Organizers at Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) have been petitioning for the change since July, about two months after turning in a pair of complementary ballot proposals to the secretary of state’s office.

The governor has already voiced opposition to the reform effort, saying in September that legalization “poses demonstrated harms to our children,” and that medical cannabis should only be accessible if its approved by FDA.

Late last year, NMM told Marijuana Moment that the governor’s argument was a “cop out,” and she says the campaign will let voters decide for themselves.

One of NMM’s earlier campaigns gathered enough signatures for ballot placement in 2020, but the measure was invalidated by the state Supreme Court following a single-subject challenge. Supporters then came up short on signatures for revised petitions in 2022 due in large part to the loss of funding after one of their key donors died in a plane crash.

Nebraska lawmakers, including campaign co-chair Sen. Anna Wishart (D), have also attempted to enact the reform legislatively, but cannabis bills have consistently stalled out in the conservative legislature.

Wishart’s medical cannabis bill received a hearing in the unicameral Judiciary Committee in February, but it did not advance. She attributed the inaction to changes in committee membership. An earlier version of the measure ultimately stalled out in the GOP-controlled legislature amid a filibuster that supporters could not overcome.

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Ben Adlin, a senior editor at Marijuana Moment, has been covering cannabis and other drug policy issues professionally since 2011. He was previously a senior news editor at Leafly, an associate editor at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He lives in Washington State.


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