Medical marijuana bill back in front of the Nebraska legislature

Proponents of medical cannabis are trying once again to get the matter legalized.
Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 4:30 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 10, 2023 at 10:00 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Proponents of medical cannabis are trying once again to get the matter legalized.

This year, they’re attempting to do that through legislation at the Nebraska unicameral.

Lincoln senator Anna Wishart started the hearing Thursday by telling the board she is bringing one of the most conservative medical cannabis bills in the country to them.

She believes it’s the best iteration she’s presented that has the best chance of advancing.

“This bill is not going to fail because of lack of compromise or thoughtfulness on the part of all the senators and stakeholders that have worked on this,” Wishart said. “If this bill fails, it will fail like it has in the past because of political pressure of a few who field their power to stamp out the will of the people.”

Dozens of people showed up to testify in support. Families said medical cannabis is often the best option for their loved ones who are suffering from a chronic illness.

“He’s left with the option of brain surgery, we’re left with the option of losing his mobility and ability to verbalize,” said Dominic Gillen, who has a child who would benefit from medical marijuana. “It is fair to us to have to make that decision when there is something that might alleviate that and not make that process and decision a necessary process for us.”

Attorney General Mike Hilgers, Colonel John Bolduc with the Nebraska State Patrol, Lancaster County Attorney Pat Condon, as well as officials from DHHS all testified in opposition.

Many argued that it shouldn’t be the legislature that approves a drug.

“This bill has come before the legislature several times in the past, what we see in other states that have gone down this route is an increase in traffic fatalities, traffic accidents,” Bolduc said. “It’s important that senators know what the unintended consequences of a bill like this is. Traffic fatalities is one, addiction rates is another thing.”

Wishart’s bill narrows the list of people who qualify for medical cannabis use, prevents smoking or vaporizing cannabis, establishes four types of medical cannabis business licenses, and adds medical cannabis to the list of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

“I am tired and weary from this fight,” said Crista Eggers, who has a child who would benefit from medical marijuana. “I beg you to look upon the suffering people of the state with compassion and empathy by supporting this bill.”

Next, the bill must be voted out of committee to the house floor.

Wishart and other advocates said if it does not get voted out, they will try again to enact this with a ballot initiative.