LINCOLN — State lawmakers will debate a controversial proposal to make medical cannabis legal this year after an amended bill advanced from a committee on Tuesday.
Members of the Judiciary Committee voted 5-2, with one senator not voting, to advance LB 474 to debate by the full 49-member unicameral Legislature.
The bill, introduced and prioritized by Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln, would set up a process to regulate the production, processing and distribution of marijuana for use by people with certain health conditions.
Smoking marijuana would not be allowed. The amendment that was adopted better defines what maladies can be treated with medical marijuana.
Cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, terminal illnesses and chronic pain would be among the qualifying ailments.
“It’s time for Nebraska to pass a compassionate and commonsense medical cannabis law that puts people over politics,” Wishart said Tuesday.
She introduced similar legislation two years ago, but it stalled in the face of stiff opposition from legislators and Gov. Pete Ricketts.
Last year, enough signatures were gathered to put the measure on the ballot, but it was tossed off by the Nebraska Supreme Court, which ruled that it violated the single-subject limit in the State Constitution.
Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop, who chairs the Judiciary Committee and voted to advance LB 474, said he preferred the current version of the proposal because it treats cannabis more like a medicine.
Lathrop also said the bill allows lawmakers to regulate medical cannabis, which might not be the case if it was legalized at the ballot box.
Sens. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln and Julie Slama of Peru voted against the bill. Plymouth Sen. Tom Brandt was present but did not vote.
Backers say they should be allowed to use a natural alternative, one allowed in more than 30 states, to address pain, seizures and other disorders.
Opponents argue that allowing medical marijuana will increase use by youth and lead to full legalization of marijuana for recreational use.