Forty-four U.S. states permit some form of medical cannabis. Nebraska is one of the six states that do not.LB 622, introduced by Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln at a hearing Wednesday, intends on adding Nebraska to the list of states that allow medical cannabis by adopting the Medical Cannabis Act.
Family and friends who are struggling with chronic illnesses want access to this form of medicine, Wishart said.
Under the bill, individuals over the age of 21 with a background free of any felonies could be eligible for medical cannabis by prescription. The state would allow for up to four cannabis dispensaries, or compassion centers, per congressional district, plus one manufacturer per congressional district.
According to Wishart, the act would generate sales tax revenue for the state. Not only would the bill generate revenue, but it has the potential to decrease the number of deaths caused by overuse of pain killers, she said.
Pain killer deaths have dropped 25 percent in states that have allowed medical cannabis, Wishart said, and not one state has repealed the act after putting it in place.
Family doctor Rachel Knox of Portland, Ore. attended the hearing in support of the bill.She said In the states that have allowed medical cannabis, there has been an average of 1,800 fewer opioid prescriptions per physician per year.
"You can overdose on just about anything," Knox said, "but there are no documented deaths due to cannabis."
Numerous Lincoln residents including mothers of epileptic children, veterans and others affected by illnesses treatable by cannabis also testified in support of the bill.
Although many see medical cannabis as a natural alternative to addictive medication with numerous side effects, some expressed doubt regarding the benefits of cannabis and whether they outweigh the dangers.
On behalf of the Nebraska State Patrol, Col. Bradley Rice spoke in opposition to the proposed legislation.
"We are generally opposed to any legislation that would legalize marijuana," Rice said. "There is a significant risk that it will be used for recreational purposes."
But the colonel's main concern focused on firearms.
Passing the bill would create a conflict with firearm laws, because individuals using medical cannabis would not be allowed to have a concealed carry permit, he said.
Other opponents expressed concern over the dangers of introducing medical marijuana because of uncertainty about appropriate dosing.