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The fourteenth week of session adjourned Thursday. There are only three session days remaining before we adjourn for the year. Several bills advanced to Final Reading last week, even with all the extended debate that took place.
On Tuesday we had six hours of debate on LB643, a bill that would have legalized medical marijuana. It was an emotional debate, because we all want more treatment options available for individuals suffering from various medical maladies. However, legislators must make decisions not from emotion, but with as much prudence as possible based on the current information. It would not have been prudent to provide another option that is absent the necessary, objective scientific research.
I had many concerns with this legislation. First, while there is anecdotal evidence that marijuana has helped some individuals with medical ailments, the use of marijuana as a medicinal drug lacks rigorous, objective scientific research involving double-blind studies. There is a lack of data regarding marijuana’s potency, efficacy, proper dosage, interaction with other drugs, and safety, which concerned many senators, as well as major medical associations and health care practitioners. Not only could it be harmful to adults, but also it could be more harmful for children. Neurologists in Colorado have reported increases in the number and severity of seizures in their epileptic patients who have tried using medical marijuana. The bill fell three votes short of advancing, and I did not support it.
For patients and physicians who are out of treatment options, the FDA has a compassionate use exception whereby a physician, whose patient wants to try a drug that is not FDA-approved and is not available for prescription, can complete the necessary paperwork and obtain the drug for use. One such drug is Epidiolex; it contains the CBD oil found in marijuana, and is used to treat epilepsy. See: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ExpandedAccessCompassionateUse/ucm20080392.htm.
Bills advanced to Final Reading:
On Thursday we had a signing ceremony with Governor Ricketts for LB891, The Down Syndrome Diagnosis Information and Support Act, which passed Final Reading April 1. Many families with children with Down syndrome, along with Down syndrome organizations, attended the event.
Thank you to Chaplain Jean Vargo who said the opening prayer at the start of the Legislative day on Monday. Chaplain Vargo is from Grace Lutheran Church in West Point. Also, thank you to Chaplain Rebecca Hjelle, from First United Methodist Church in Blair, who said the opening prayer on Tuesday.
Please contact me; my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann; or my legislative aide, Brett Waite, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or stop by Room 1016 in the Capitol. You can follow the Legislature online at http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.