Nebraska senators to hash out legalizing medical marijuana


Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 9.02.13 AMLINCOLN, Neb. —Nebraska senators will debate whether to legalize medical marijuana under a bill proponents say is aimed at residents struggling with debilitating seizures.

Both sides of a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Nebraska squared off at a Judiciary Committee hearing in Lincoln on Friday.

A legislative committee voted 7-1 Monday to advance a measure to create cannabis centers where marijuana would be produced and dispensed. Patients and caregivers could register with the state to obtain the drug for treatment.

“If it gets legalized, I will be a very happy person,” said Maria Vavra, who uses marijuana as treatment for MS. “I have MS and if I did not smoke marijuana daily, I would be using my walker again and I would probably be in a wheelchair today.”

“I use it for the spasms in my leg,” said Dennis Pyle. “It seems to work better than the pills that I take.”

The committee advanced a version allowing a limited number of manufacturing centers and specifying that patients could not ingest the drug by smoking it.

The bill by Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue is the second of two medical marijuana bills up for debate this year. Last month the committee advanced a measure creating a pilot study of cannabidiol, a marijuana derivative, to gauge its effectiveness in treating seizures.

“If the legislative body feels they are not ready for that, then will go with what we can get,” Garrett said.

“I am still concerned where this takes us long-term,” Sen. Matt Williams said.

Williams, the only judiciary committee member to vote against Garrett’s bill, said he wants proof of marijuana’s medical benefits.

“I support Sen. Crawford’s bill that does the research on this at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, to find and determine if this does help and benefit people,” Williams said.

Some patients said that wait is too long.

“If I get caught, it will be worth every day that I spend in jail,” Vavra said.

With 24 days left in this legislative session, some worry there won’t be time to debate the bill. But Sen. Sue Crawford, whose medical marijuana research bill made it out of committee, asked to be scheduled second for debate on the floor, giving Garrett’s bill a fighting chance.



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