NE Leg: Medical marijuana bill hits wall in committee

FILE -  (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)
FILE - (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)(Nati Harnik | AP)
Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 9:52 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Medical marijuana has become a familiar topic in recent years in the Nebraska unicameral and this session is no different.

What was brought forth at a hearing on Wednesday is different, it would bring it to Nebraska only in the form of oil or a pill and limit the people who have access.

LB1275 was first introduced by now-resigned Senator Mike Groene. It would make it available in Nebraska, but with tighter restrictions than a ballot initiative currently making the rounds.

Since his departure, that bill was taken over by Lincoln Senator Anna Wishart, who kept the bill active for Wednesday’s hearing which usually brings families and testifiers from across the state and has been on the books since January.

Testifiers offered staunchly different opinions about bringing medical marijuana to Nebraska, but overall agreed this likely isn’t the bill to do so, at least not in the current form.

“I wish I could say I was surprised Senator Groene’s pill bill doesn’t even have allowances for the smaller number of patients deemed worthy to have access to medical cannabis, but I’m not,” said Lia Post, an advocate for medical marijuana.

Everybody who testified was in opposition of the bill, but for different reasons.

“As a law enforcement agency prohibited from utilizing the registry that would be created, it’s virtually impossible for the cannabis enforcement to be a division of the State Patrol,” said Col. John Bolduc with the Nebraska State Patrol.

As the wording of the bill sits now, it wouldn’t allow for things like smokable options or for farmers to grow any type of the drug in-state.

“It’s illegal to transport across state lines and if you can’t grow it here, which this bill expressly forbids, it can’t be sold, is that irony, or is it cruelty,” said one testifier.

Still aiming for that 2022 ballot are multiple initiatives that would leave the decision up to voters. Right now, two petitions are circulating that would make using, growing and selling medical marijuana more widely available.

“The legislature has seen many bills come and go and unfortunately up until this point there has been no action taken,” said Crista Eggers with Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana. “That’s what really brought us to this point of knowing we have to go to the ballot.”

Right now, Eggers said they’re hitting internal pace goals for those signatures. They will need 87,000 on each, due in July of this year.

“If the last go-around is any indication of what this time is going to be like, I know we’re going to surpass it yet again,” Eggers said.

For now, the legislative bill will remain in committee, but it’s likely it won’t move forward without big changes being made by Wishart and any other co-sponsors.

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