Lawmakers push for decriminalizing marijuana, recreational use on 2022 ballot

Marijuana talks continue at the Nebraska Legislature.
Marijuana talks continue at the Nebraska Legislature.
Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 9:33 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - On Friday, state lawmakers and officials debating over legislation to decriminalize marijuana and allowing people to vote on recreational use of it in the 2022 election.

Sen. Terrell McKinney of Omaha said decriminalizing marijuana has many benefits including help with overcrowded prisons.

“One way we can help address this concern is by enacting this legislation,” Sen. McKinney said.

Starting in 2023, Sen. McKinney wants to get people in prisons on marijuana charges out.

“The continued criminalization of marijuana has been to the economic detriment of Nebraska,” Sen McKinney said.

Several state officials opposed the legislation including Douglas County attorney Don Kleine, Dr. Gary Anthone and members of Nebraska DHHS.

Many said it’ll increase marijuana use in teens and young adults.

Director of Behavioral Health for DHHS, Sheri Dawson, said, “The department is concerned that lb 546 and 481 do poorly in protecting minors and promoting the use of cannabis.”

Lawmakers aren’t just stopping at decriminalizing. They also want people to vote on recreational use of it in 2022.

Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha said, “It’s going to happen sooner or later. The feds are moving in that direction, and either we can allow local businesses to participate or we can wait for Pepsi and Coca-Cola to come in and buy us out.”.”

Sen. Wayne said he wants to go further than medical use because he’s worried that medical marijuana makes doctors more liable.

The state’s leading doctor, Dr. Gary Anthone, said more research is needed before legalizing.

“Permitting marijuana use of any use poses an increased risk to the health and safety of Nebraskans by proposes them a drug that doesn’t meet the standards set by the U.S. FDA,” Dr. Anthone said.

Sen. Wayne emphasized several times Friday his constitutional amendment isn’t for recreational use but leaving it up to the voters to decide.

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