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Tim Gragert

Sen. Tim Gragert

District 40

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The question of whether Nebraska should legalize medical marijuana will be debated by the Legislature this year. LB 474, the Medicinal Cannabis Act, was advanced this past week from the Judiciary Committee on a 5-2-1 vote. It has been prioritized by Senator Anna Wishart, the primary sponsor of LB 474. The bill, 62 pages in length, provides the regulatory framework to establish access to cannabis for medical purposes. It limits the allowable amount of cannabis, requires a patient to have a bona fide relationship with the health care practitioner, and prohibits the smoking of marijuana.

The committee amendments define qualifying medical condition as a current diagnosis of any of the conditions specifically listed, such as autism, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, or terminal illness. Furthermore, eight hours of continuing medical education would be required prior to a health care practitioner issuing a patient a written certification.

The Nebraska Pharmacists Association, ACLU, the Epilepsy Foundation of Nebraska, and representatives from the Nebraska Families for Medical Cannabis submitted written testimony in support of LB 474, while several individuals told Judiciary Committee members their personal stories of how medical marijuana would help their loved ones. Parents of young children affected by seizures have fought for more than 8 years to be able to use marijuana as an alternative to harsh drugs with many side effects. Thirty-six other states have legalized marijuana for medical use.

Those opposing the legalization of medical marijuana include the Governor, the Attorney General, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Nebraska Medical Association, the Nebraska State Patrol, and the Nebraska Sheriffs Association. Standards do not exist to give either providers or patients information about the identity, purity, or quality of any cannabis product. The FDA process for approval of drugs cannot be used, as marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Many fear that the legalization of medical marijuana will open the door for recreational marijuana. Studies have confirmed that casual use of marijuana causes harm in the brain of young users and can have a long-term impact on the mental health of our young people, making them more susceptible to serious mental health conditions and suicide.

In 2020, despite the pandemic, a petition drive to place medical marijuana on the ballot gathered approximately 196,000 signatures, far more than the 122,000 required. The Secretary of State, Bob Evnen, ruled that the proposal should be placed on the November 2020 ballot, but his ruling was challenged by the Lancaster County Sheriff, arguing that it violated the single subject requirement of the Nebraska Constitution. The Nebraska Supreme Court reversed the opinion of the Secretary of State and ordered Mr. Evnen to withhold the initiative from the ballot.

Another petition drive is currently underway, which seeks to legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational uses. Most likely, it will be successful and the question placed on the November 2022 ballot. One item that will be considered during the debate on LB 474 is whether the Legislature should pass a bill prior to this happening, where marijuana could be limited to medical use and lawmakers would have more authority to regulate its production, processing and distribution.

This is just one of the many controversial issues before the Legislature. I encourage your input. I can be reached at District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509. My email address is tgragert@leg.ne.gov and my telephone number is (402) 471-2801.

Sen. Tim Gragert

District 40
Room 11th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2801
Email: tgragert@leg.ne.gov
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