Advocates (again) push for legalization of medical marijuana in Nebraska

Posted at 7:02 PM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 20:19:49-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — For much of the last decade, Nebraskans have pushed for the legalization of medical marijuana in Nebraska.

The unicameral, and the governor, have consistently rejected it. Nebraskans were slated to vote on medical marijuana in the 2020 election, before the Nebraska Supreme Court rejected it.

So now, it’s being pushed through the legislative process again, but not before opponents like Gov. Ricketts could tell anybody listening it’s a bad idea.

“This is a dangerous drug that will impact our kids. If you legalize marijuana, you’re going to kill your kids. That’s what the data shows from around the country,” said Ricketts.

Those are strong words coming from Ricketts, a longtime vocal opponent of cannabis.

He had lots of backup in his opposition, including state senators, the attorney general and former Husker head football coach Tom Osborne.

One key argument made was that the FDA hasn’t approved its use, as it’s still a Schedule 1 drug.

“There will be examples of various types of illnesses and people will make claims, but the FDA has not made that claim and I think that should carry some weight,” said Osborne.

Osborne reflected on his own player's pot use when he coached the Huskers, saying he was forced to dismiss some who couldn’t kick the drug.

“Don’t believe that this is something that is not addictive, that it has no impact over time, because it does and I saw it firsthand,” said Osborne.

Others like former Senator John Kuehn say calling pot medicine is ridiculous.

“Nobody pulls a beer out of a six pack at the end of a long stressful day, and calls it medicinal Budweiser. However, the similar type of logical disorientation applies when we label marijuana,” says Kuehn.

But downstairs in the hearing, parents of children with debilitating diseases like epilepsy say marijuana is exactly the medicine their child needs.

It included Crista Eggers, of Gretna, whose son Colton consistently suffers from seizures.

“What you can not see is the damage being done to his little brain. These repeated seizures are damaging and killing my child,” said Eggers.

The bill isn’t as broad as some advocates may like.

A Nebraskan could get it if they have written certification from a doctor for any illness a medical professional deems appropriate. They’d have to renew it every 90 days.

It also bars marijuana from being smoked or eaten in food. Instead, it would need to be used in a tincture, oil or pill.

In a bit of dichotomy, one of Osborne's former players, Grant Wistrom, spoke in the hearing, in support of passing the law, going against his former coach.

He said it helped him in his NFL career.

“I noticed if I consumed marijuana after games, I slept better, more recovered, dealt with less pain and was prepared to play again more quickly without it,” said Wistrom.

Senator Anna Wishart, of Lincoln, who’s been pushing the bill for years, said there would only be one reason it fails.

“If it fails to pass it is because of political pressure from a few who wield their power to stamp out the will of the people,” said Wishart.

And if this effort fails, supporters say they’ll look to another petition drive, with much simpler language than the previous one.

“Work with us now,” said Nicole Hochstein with Nebraska Families for Medicinal Cannabis.

At least one senator seemed to take that to heart. Senator Tom Brandt said that he would not have voted for the broad law if it was on the 2020 ballot. But he mentioned he may be able to stomach this more restrictive bill.

“I would kill to have these regulations,” said Brandt.