- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The Nebraska Legislature will debate whether to allow seizure patients to have legal access to a marijuana derivative treatment under the supervision of University of Nebraska researchers.

A legislative committee voted 6-0 Tuesday to advance a measure creating a pilot study of cannabidiol to gauge its effectiveness treating severe seizures. Cannabidiol has extremely low levels of THC, the compound responsible for the marijuana high, and advocates say it’s not likely to be abused. Studies on children in Colorado suffering from epilepsy have suggested cannabidiol reduces seizures and overall inflammation.

Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue introduced the measure and designated it as her priority bill. It specifies that researchers at the University of Nebraska and Nebraska Medicine would be the only entities able to produce, possess or distribute the drug.

Committee member Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha told the committee the $250,000 project would be funded by the Nebraska Research Initiative Fund, a state-funded grant program administered by the university, rather than state general funds.

Last year, the Iowa Legislature approved a law that allowed some epilepsy patients to use cannabidiol, but didn’t establish a program for an in-state production and distribution of the oil. Critics say that as a result, the law is effectively useless.

The committee also discussed, but did not act on, a bill by Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue that would allow for a wider medical marijuana program. The bill would create cannabis centers where marijuana would be produced and dispensed, and patients and caregivers could register with the state to obtain the drug for treatment.

Committee members worried proposed amendments to Garrett’s bill would place too large a burden on an already strained Department of Health and Human Services to manage cannabis centers and distribute registration cards.

“I don’t think it’s indicative of a lack of will to pass a broader medical marijuana bill for the state of Nebraska,” Krist said of the committee’s inaction. “What it is indicative of is we haven’t seen that language until they dropped that amendment on us to ask the Department of Health and Human Services to do so many things in conjunction to administering the program.”

Garrett has designated the bill his priority, and Krist said he expects the committee to discuss it further early next week.


The bills are LB 390 and LB 643

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