Lawmakers in Nebraska started debating a proposal to legalize medical marijuana in the state as cannabis advocates pushed to put the matter before voters next year.
Cannabis advocates are unhappy about the legalization bill because, in their view, it is too narrow and restrictive. For example, the bill bans the smoking of medical cannabis yet advocates see smoking as one of the cheapest ways for patients to get their dose of medical cannabis. Other forms require processed cannabis, which is more expensive, so medical marijuana will be out of the reach of many patients if smoking it isn’t allowed.
The activists also have serious concerns about what the bill has to say about qualifying conditions. The proposed law recommends that patients who want to use medical marijuana must have their qualifying condition certified every 90 days. This step is cumbersome and will inconvenience patients a great deal, they say.
Just having a listed qualifying condition will also not be enough to get one on the medical cannabis program. Other requirements must be met as well. For example, patients suffering from a terminal illness can only use medical marijuana if they have less than a year to live, while those with chronic pain must have had it for longer than three months without getting any improvement after taking non-opioid medications.
The debate on this bill was so polarized that the Speaker was forced to halt it barely three hours after it commenced. The sponsors of the bill, such as Sen. Anna Wishart, see no chance of the bill getting sufficient support to pass on the floor of the legislature after witnessing her colleagues spend more time talking about recreational marijuana rather than discussing the bill before them.
Supporters are now considering putting the matter before voters using a ballot measure during the elections next year. They feel that letting voters decide will result in a less restrictive law which is truly aligned with the needs of patients.
For example, the petition will include a call to allow home cultivation of medical marijuana so that patients can reduce how much they have to spend on medical cannabis products.
However, getting medical marijuana legalized through a ballot measure will not be a walk in the park as there are groups which are opposed to any form of marijuana legalization in the state. Some protestors have been describing themselves as “marijuana refugees” who fled from other states where marijuana is legal to Nebraska where the substance hasn’t been legalized either for medicinal or recreational use.
The activists will therefore have to do a lot of work to secure a majority vote if the initiate is to register success. Hemptown USA and Green Hygienics Holdings Inc. (OTCQB: GRYN) wish that the legislators had been more objective and spared the voters the lengthy process of using a ballot measure to give patients another treatment option for their conditions.
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