On March 6, 2015, hundreds of supporters and opponents gathered at the Nebraska Capitol to give and hear arguments in a public hearing held by the Judiciary Committee over whether or not the state should legalize medical marijuana. The legislature is currently considering a medical marijuana bill introduced by Sen. Tommy Garrett
Legislative Bill 643 would legalize medical marijuana for patients with a variety of debilitating conditions, allow for home cultivation, protect a patient’s right to employment, and establish a non-profit dispensary system. LB 643 seems to be an effective medical marijuana bill, yet it was criticized at the hearing by the state’s law enforcement.
According to NPR Nebraska, Grant County Sherriff Shawn Hebbert spoke on behalf of the Nebraska Sheriffs’ Association. “The Sheriffs’ Association is opposed to the legalization of marijuana in any way… . Medical use is not acceptable practice,” Hebbert said. “If it was, the FDA would have approved it … . We already have pharmacies.”
Many law enforcement officers, many of whom have never tried the substance, have a difficult time understanding how a recreational drug could be used for medicinal purposes; in spite of study after study after study confirming the safe and medicinal properties of marijuana, it seems that four decades of prohibition impairs critical thinking skills worse than the opposition claims marijuana does.
However, for every ignorant officer at the hearing there was also a story of the therapeutic power of marijuana.
“Times are changing,” said 25-year-old Sarah Lyon at the hearing. “People need to stand up for what is right for the greater good.” Lyon has been paralyzed from the chest down ever since she was 15 and suffers from full body spasms. The 11 prescription drugs she was on did little to ease her pain and her condition left little room for appetite.
After “prescribing” herself marijuana, Lyon has been able to lead a more normal life and get her body weight back to normal, yet Nebraska’s current laws technically classify her as a criminal.
Though many impassioned voices came out in favor and opposition of the issue, it is unlikely that the committee will take immediate action on the bill. Government work is slow by nature, and politicians like to drag their feet until they know which move is more popular.
We have seen this war play out so many times in so many other legislatures and very little has changed. LB 643 certainly faces an uphill battle in the legislature, but the odds aren’t completely stacked against it.
Small towns bordering Colorado are going broke arresting residents that are smuggling marijuana back into the state. Lawmakers will have a hard time denying that legalizing medical marijuana would be a more effective method of dealing with the issue than suing Colorado.