Recently, a Nebraska Senate committee held a hearing on a bill that would legalize medical marijuana, and effectively block the federal prohibition in practice.
Introduced by State Sen. Tommy Garrett (R-3) on Jan. 21, Legislative Bill 643 (LB643), the Cannabis Compassion and Care Act, would create a medical cannabis program for individuals suffering from debilitating medical conditions, which include "cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn's disease, agitation of Alzheimer's disease, nail patella, or the treatment of these conditions."
The bill received its first hearing in the Judiciary Committee last week, but no vote has been taken on it at the present time. The Judiciary Committee must approve LB643 before it can receive a full vote in the state senate.
The bill reads, in part:
"A person shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including, but not limited to, civil penalty or disciplinary action by a court or occupational or professional licensing board, simply for being in the presence or vicinity of the medical use of cannabis as allowed under the Cannabis Compassion and Care Act, or for assisting a registered qualifying patient with using or administering cannabis."
The bill would also protect qualifying patients from being denied a lease or a job solely due to their use of medical marijuana, though it would not require them to allow it to be consumed on their property. Nor can a patient be deprived of child custody or visitation rights because of their use of medical marijuana.
On March 5, Sen. Garrett filed amendments to LB643 in order to solidify the basis for the bill. The following addition explains why the bill has the potential to be very effective in pushing back against the federal war on marijuana:
"Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's uniform crime reports and the Compendium of Federal Justice Statistics show that approximately ninety-nine out of every one hundred cannabis arrests in the United States are made under state law, rather than under federal law. Consequently, changing state law will have the practical effect of protecting from arrest the vast majority of seriously ill patients who have a medical need to use cannabis."
Although this bill draws a legal distinction between recreational and medical marijuana, it still represents an enormous step in the right direction for cannabis rights advocates in the state of Nebraska. The top-down federal mandates that have failed for so many decades are being replaced with a more decentralized, compassionate approach that is responsive to the needs of the people.
Activists should embrace any opportunity that they have to make it more difficult for people to be locked in cages for the non-violent non-crime of marijuana possession. The end of the federal drug war is on its way whether detractors like it or not. Measures such as LB643 can help grease the wheels on our way toward that inevitable goal!
HOW TO SUPPORT THIS BILL
If you live in the state of Nebraska, take measures to support this bill HERE.
If you live in different state, contact your state legislators and urge them to introduce a supporting bill to LB643 such as our P.E.A.C.E (Preventing Excessive Allocations for Cannabis Enforcement) Act.