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Last year, the group Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana submitted over 180,000 verified signatures in an attempt to allow our citizens the opportunity to vote on whether or not to allow for medical marijuana in Nebraska, as it is now legal in 33 states and Washington D.C. Following a Nebraska Supreme Court decision that barred the question from being placed on the ballot due the initiative being in conflict with the single subject rule, Senator Anna Wishart of Lincoln introduced Legislative Bill 474, a bill that would adopt the Medicinal Cannabis Act. Given the groundswell of support the citizens of Nebraska have shown for medical marijuana legislation, I have explored the provisions of LB 474 further.
If LB 474 were to be enacted into law, a patient must have a qualifying medical condition and a written certification issued by a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant with whom they have a bona-fide relationship. A qualifying medical condition is any illness for which cannabis provides relief as determined by the patient’s healthcare practitioner. Any patient under 18 years of age would require written consent from a parent or guardian.
These practitioners would be required to perform a physical exam on patients, which would include an assessment for alcohol and substance abuse. Under LB 474, a practitioner would be required to complete continuing medical educational courses if they provide more than 10 patients a certification for medicinal cannabis per year and a practitioner is prohibited from issuing more than 275 certifications for this treatment in any 90-day period.
Any patient who is certified may possess cannabis products such as ointments, pills, or tinctures that do not contain more than 2000 milligrams of THC unless granted a waiver to receive a higher amount, and a patient may designate a caregiver to assist in the use and purchase of medical cannabis. A patient may not smoke cannabis, but may use vaporizing products, and patients cannot consume edible products, other than pills. Patients would also be prohibited from cultivating their own cannabis. There are also restrictions on operating a vehicle while under the influence, and the consumption of cannabis while in a vehicle, regardless if the patient is a driver or a passenger.
LB 474 would allow for four types of medical cannabis businesses. One to grow cannabis, one to make products such as oils, lotion, and pills, establishes dispensaries, and establishes laboratories to test for potency and contaminants. Any dispensary would be required to contract with a licensed pharmacist to give patient advice which is a new addition to this legislative proposal. These businesses are prohibited from being near schools, and could even be prohibited from any locality if the governing board decides to ban them.
LB 474 would create the Cannabis Enforcement Department, which would create and enforce rules, regarding oversight, record keeping, security, and labeling. This Department would establish requirements for law enforcement and health professionals to report adverse events involving these products to the department. LB 474 would also restrict advertising and marketing.
I have never been opposed to the idea of medical cannabis if it were prescribed by a physician and administered through a pharmacy like any other prescription medication, however, these provisions have never been included in any previous proposal which is why I haven’t supported similar legislation in the past. Senator Wishart is working hard to listen to the concerns of stakeholders such as our medical professionals, pharmacists, and law enforcement issues to make a restrictive medical marijuana bill that protects patients and the public. Personally, I believe if we have medical marijuana in our state, we regulate through the Legislature rather than the Nebraska Constitution.
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