- Associated Press - Thursday, May 7, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A Nebraska lawmaker who wants to legalize medical marijuana says his bill would help suffering children, while opponents criticize the measure as too lax.

Lawmakers clashed Thursday over a proposal that would allow doctors to prescribe cannabis to patients with cancer, epilepsy and other chronic illnesses.

Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue offered an impassioned case for the legislation, arguing that advocates may place the issue on the 2016 ballot if lawmakers fail to act.

“These Nebraskans are begging for our help,” Garrett said.

Opponents say Nebraska shouldn’t legalize the drug just because other states have, and worried about the consequences of charging an already troubled Department of Health and Human Services to regulate a medical marijuana industry in Nebraska.

Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue, who introduced a different measure to study the effectiveness of hemp oil on treating seizures, said without federal backing, state-level solutions leave patients vulnerable if they have to move or are transferred to a federal facility. Crawford said Garrett’s measure would not allow families to purchase a low-THC marijuana strain from Colorado called Charlotte’s Web, which has gained attention for treating children with epileptic seizures.

Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island said he would not try to derail the bill, but offered an amendment to clean up what he considers vague language. Gloor, a former hospital administrator, said the bill’s language to prevent discrimination against those using medical marijuana would create a public hazard if patients employed as pilots or health professionals were not required to disclose their use of the drug while on the job.

“Well-intentioned bill with lot of enthusiasm, but I’m concerned there’s too much emotion,” he said. “We need to make this bill better if it’s going to pass.”

Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln, who supports the measure, asked his colleagues to take the four-day weekend hash out the arguments and come to a solid position.

“If you can’t see yourself voting for this bill no matter what, vote no,” Coash said. “We need to know where we are. And we’re at the point in the session where we can’t waste a lot of time on something that’s not going to pass.”

Senators didn’t get to a vote, and could resume debate Tuesday. Some proposed amendments would prohibit smoking the drug and would not allow marijuana to be prescribed for chronic pain.


The bill is LB643

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