During the last month, the medical marijuana debate has heated up in Nebraska following legislation introduced by state Senators Sue Crawford and Tommy Garrett.
Senator Crawford’s bill would establish a medical cannabidiol pilot study with the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The pilot program would give patients who suffer from severe epileptic seizures access to low-THC cannabidiol oil for the purpose of the study.
Senator Garrett’s initial bill, dubbed the Cannabis Compassion and Care Act, was amended due to concerns that it would make medical marijuana too easy to access. The amended version of his bill makes the Department of Health and Human Services responsible to develop specific rules and regulations. The amended bill includes the following provisions.
It would allow medical cannabis to be taken in liquid form (including oil), by pill or vapor. Any other method, including smoking, would have to be approved by HHS.
Patients would need a doctor’s approval to use medical marijuana. The doctor would also have to approve if the patient needs a caretaker to administer the medication.
Illnesses or conditions that can be treated would be limited to: seizures; cancer, if symptoms include severe or chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or severe weight loss; glaucoma; HIV or AIDS; Tourette’s syndrome; ALS; multiple sclerosis with severe or persistent muscle spasms; Crohn’s disease and terminal illnesses.
Legislative committee advances Senator Garrett’s bill
On Monday, a legislative committee advanced Senator Garrett’s bill. The legislation would create cannabis centers that would produce and dispense marijuana to registered patients or caregivers.
“If it gets legalized, I will be a very happy person,” said Maria Vavra, who uses marijuana as treatment for MS. “I have MS and if I did not smoke marijuana daily, I would be using my walker again and I would probably be in a wheelchair today.”
“I use it for the spasms in my leg,” said Dennis Pyle. “It seems to work better than the pills that I take.”
Senator Garrett’s amended bill sees pushback
Senator Matt Williams was the only member of the judiciary committee to vote against Garrett’s bill. He said that he wants proof of marijuana’s medical benefits.
“I’m very sympathetic and empathetic to the people who are affected by these afflictions,” he said. “But the thing that we have to do here is create public policy for 1.9 million people in our state.”
“I support Sen. Crawford’s bill that does the research on this at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, to find and determine if this does help and benefit people,” Williams said.
Running out of time
There are 24 days left in this legislative session and some people are concerned that there will not be enough time to debate the bill. Senator Crawford asked to schedule a debate on Senator Garrett’s bill, thus giving it a fighting chance.
Senator Williams said he would vote against the bill when it is debated before the state senate.