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On May 12, the Nebraska Legislature began debate on LB 474, a bill to adopt the Medicinal Cannabis Act. As I explained in a previous column, had LB 474 been 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.
Following the Judiciary Committee hearing on LB 474, the Judiciary Committee proposed AM 824 which would make two changes to the introduced version of the bill. The amendment would have replaced what defined a qualifying medical condition with a specific list of diseases or condition and rewrote the continuing medical education provisions to require eight hours of continuing medical education prior to issuing a certification to a patient for the patient to access medical marijuana.
As soon as the debate began on LB 474, a motion to bracket the bill until June 10, 2021 was filed. Since a bracket motion is a priority motion, it takes priority over any other amendment that was filed on the bill which prohibits Senators from introducing amendments to improve the proposal. After a few hours of debate, a vote on the motion to bracket the bill failed with 16 ayes and 27 nays. As soon as this vote transpired, a motion to reconsider the vote was immediately filed, tying the hands of senators from improving the bill.
While Senators were unable to amend the bill, multiple senators on both sides of the issue worked diligently to find compromises that would have made the bill a better proposal. Senator Ben Hansen introduced AM 1429 which would have removed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the list of qualifying conditions, would have limited vaping provisions to only allow for aerosol inhalers, would have required any health care practitioner to check the prescription drug monitoring system prior to recommending cannabis products and would have required the person dispensing the product to check the prescription drug monitoring system prior to the dispensing to prevent a patient from gaming the system and getting more cannabis than what was recommended to the person.
After hearing from my constituents, while I did not support passage of the bill itself, I did vote for cloture to end debate to advance the bill to the next round of debate. Numerous senators were working on amendments to make the bill better, however, due to procedural games played by some senators, we were unable to debate those changes, therefore, I wanted LB 474 to advance to the next round to give the opportunity to Senator Wishart and others to improve upon the legislation, given that a medical marijuana proposal is very likely to appear on the ballot in November of 2022. As we saw in 2020, there was a strong effort to legalize medical marijuana through a ballot initiative. Over 180,000 verified signatures were collected for an attempt to allow our citizens the opportunity to vote on whether or not to allow medical marijuana in Nebraska. Last year, we saw how successful the gambling initiatives were at the ballot box, and I believe a second medical marijuana referendum will have the same amount of support, if not more. Thus, I still believed that if we were to have medical marijuana in our state, we needed to regulate it through the Legislature rather than the Nebraska Constitution. LB 474 failed to meet the requisite 33 votes to end cloture by a vote of 31-18.
After the conclusion of debate on LB 474, the Legislature advanced LB 579, a bill that I cosponsored, from General File to Select File. As amended, LB 579 would require the Department of Transportation to provide a report to the Legislature on all state highway projects under construction, the amount of money spent on a project, the estimated cost of the project, the number of miles yet to be completed, and the expected milestone dates for other expressway projects, to give the Legislature a better understanding on the progress of projects being completed by NDOT. Finally, two bills I introduced, LB 18 and LB 147, also advanced to the final round of debate following a voice vote.
As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.