Nebraskans Could Vote On Medical Cannabis Under Constitutional Amendment Proposed In Legislature

Photo Credit: Chris Skelton

A state senator wants Nebraska voters to have a choice on medical cannabis.

Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln introduced Legislative Resolution 293CA on Thursday, saying Nebraskans who find that cannabis eases their pain and suffering should not be forced across state lines or be treated like criminals.

“Tens of thousands of Nebraskans are needlessly suffering because they don’t have access to medical cannabis, including veterans, children and the terminally ill,” Wishart said. “Nebraska leaders have failed to act and provide these Nebraskans and their doctors the freedom to make decisions for their patients, without fear.”

A bill introduced by Wishart last year that would have legalized medical cannabis drew opposition from the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office and the Nebraska State Patrol, among others.

In a press release Thursday from Wishart’s office, Brenda Potratz of Lincoln said medical cannabis is an urgent need for those who have chronic pain or have a disease that doesn’t respond to conventional medication.

“Those of us who wake up to that reality each day don’t have the luxury of disregarding our own pain,” she said.

It takes 30 votes from lawmakers to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Last year Wishart introduced Legislative Bill 622, the Medical Cannabis Act, which would have authorized a limited number of growers, processors and distribution centers to provide medical cannabis for people suffering from 19 different medical conditions.

The conditions include seizures, opioid addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or “any other illness for which medical cannabis provides relief as determined by the participating health care practitioner.”

The bill would not have allowed patients to smoke the drug or grow the plants, but they could use medical cannabis in pills, oils, creams or suppositories, or through vaporizers.

That bill is currently on general file. When the bill went before a committee last year, the Attorney General’s Office, Nebraska State Patrol and other high-ranking law enforcement authorities, and the state’s top medical doctor were all opposed to the bill.

Opponents argued that the federal Food and Drug Administration should be the one making the decision about medical marijuana, not the Nebraska Legislature. They also argued that more research needs to be done on medical marijuana. Others argue that many activists see medical marijuana as the first step toward broader legalization.

In 2016 a medical cannabis measure failed to advance after coming up three votes short of breaking a filibuster by opponents.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states allow broad access to medical marijuana and 17 allow limited uses.