Could Medical Cannabis Be Coming To Nebraska?
Nebraska is one of a few states — a list that includes South Dakota, Kansas, Indiana and West Virginia — that prohibit all forms of medicinal cannabis. Twenty-eight states and D.C. offer comprehensive medical cannabis programs while 15 others allow people with certain conditions to use a form of the plant low in THC, the compound that produces the high, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
State Sen. Anna Wishart, a freshman lawmaker from Lincoln will introduce a comprehensive medical cannabis bill in the Nebraska session for 2017. The proposal is still being drafted but is said to be similar to one that came within three votes of advancing last year. Nebraska advocates for medical cannabis outside the State Capitol say they will get behind the Nebraska bill, but they don’t seem to optimistic. They know the measure likely would need 33 votes to overcome a filibuster and almost certainly would be vetoed if it reached the desk of Gov. Pete Ricketts.
Nebraska and Oklahoma both, have already tried to sue Colorado, for allegedly not keeping cannabis within its own borders. That lawsuit was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court, but Nebraska has to continue to gripe that Colorado’s friendly reminders at airports and interstate highways aren’t sufficient to keep cannabis out of their state. Adding to the uncertainty in Nebraska is the arrival of 17 new senators with no track record on the issue of medical cannabis and ten departing legislators who supported last year’s measure.
“I’m putting more faith in a ballot initiative than a legislative bill,” said Shelley Gillen of Bellevue, who has worked for a medical cannabis law on behalf of her 14-year-old son, Will, who suffers dozens of severe seizures daily.
Wishart, the senator who will sponsor the measure, said that during door-to-door campaigning she was surprised by the number of people in her southwest Lincoln district who expressed support for medical cannabis. In many cases, supporters suffer from serious afflictions or have loved ones who do.
“There are people desperate and in need,” she said. “I can guarantee you they are in every single senator’s district.”
Last year’s bill would have allowed patients to use the drug in a pill, liquid or vapor that could only be produced by state-licensed medical cannabis manufacturers. The same restrictions would be included in her bill.
While some states allow their residents to grow the plants and use the smokeable forms of medical cannabis, the bill planned for Nebraska will not allow smoking or cultivation of medical cannabis. The senator told the Omaha World-Herald, that she will work to allay the concerns of her colleagues who might oppose the concept. Wishart husband is also a police officer, and the senator plans to seek input from law enforcement leaders.
The Marijuana Policy Project reports they would prefer bill passed by elected officials rather than have to launch a time-consuming petition drive and advertising campaign that could run into the millions of dollars, said Matt Schweich, the group’s director of state campaigns. If lawmakers don’t act, the national group is considering a ballot initiative in Nebraska in 2018.
Kevin Sabet, president of an organization called Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said in reaction to the statements about Nebraska by the Marijuana Policy Project:
“MPP wants … to say that a conservative prairie state like Nebraska has accepted marijuana. This is about a press release for a well-financed pot lobbying group, not about the best interests of Nebraskans,” he said in an email to the Omaha World-Herald. Three years ago Kevin Sabet also said we’d see in Colorado why cannabis is bad. Guess what Sabet, since you said that both teen use of cannabis has declined and people dying in car crashes in states with medical cannabis laws also dropped. Hopefully if Kevin Sabet travels to Nebraska, he won’t lose anything like he did in Massachusetts.
Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted effective medical cannabis laws. Seriously ill patients in Nebraska deserve the same access to this safe and effective treatment that is currently available for 60% of the U.S. population. The time has come for Nebraska lawmakers to put aside politics and stand with patients. Ask your Nebraska senator to support medical cannabis legislation in 2017.