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Nebraska Lawmakers Approve Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill



A Nebraska committee on Tuesday approved a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Anna Wishart (D), would allow patients with certain qualifying conditions to purchase and possess up to two and a half ounces of cannabis from licensed dispensaries. It would not allow patients to smoke marijuana, however.

Members of the Judiciary Committee approved the measure in a 5-2 vote, sending the bill to the full unicameral legislature for consideration.

Wishart and Sen. Adam Morfeld (D) have been consistent champions of cannabis reform, and while this bill is a fairly limited proposal to legalize medical marijuana, the pair announced in December that they’re working to put the question of legalization for adult use before voters in 2022.

Their campaign—Nebraskans for Medical Cannabis—is separately collecting signatures for a medical cannabis legalization measure that they hope to place on the 2022 ballot as well.

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The group qualified a measure to legalize medical marijuana for last year’s ballot. But the state Supreme Court shut it down following a single-subject challenge.

Judiciary Chairman Steve Lathrop (R) voted in favor of the latest medical cannabis bill, stating that it’s a superior vehicle for the reform compared to one that would be placed on the ballot.

If activists do collect enough signatures to qualify either the medical or recreational cannabis measure, they will still likely face a challenge at the polls, as midterms generally see lower turnout as compared to presidential election years.

That said, it’s possible that the continuing momentum for reform via the ballot could spur lawmakers to potentially pass medical cannabis legislation such as Wishart’s bill in the meantime.

That said, Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) is an ardent opponent of marijuana reform, so it seems likely he would veto any medical cannabis bill that lawmakers sent to his desk.

Under last year’s blocked Nebraska medical cannabis initiative, physicians would have been able to recommend cannabis to patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions, and those patients would then have been allowed to possess, purchase and “discreetly” cultivate marijuana for personal use.

For what it’s worth, Nebraska’s attorney general said in an opinion in 2019 that efforts to legalize medical marijuana in the state would be preempted by federal law and “would be, therefore, unconstitutional.”

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