The legislation was dealt a sequence of setbacks that dimmed its prospects: its sponsor, Republican state Senator Mike Groene, resigned abruptly on Monday, and at a hearing held at the capital of Lincoln on Wednesday, “No one spoke in favor of it,” according to local television station WOWT.
“The only reason it got a hearing at all is because State Senator Anna Wishart of Lincoln, one of the most vocal medical marijuana supports [sic] in the Legislature, picked up the bill—not that she likes it, but because she wanted to give people who had circled this date to still have a chance at addressing the Judiciary Committee,” the station reported.
Now, according to WOWT, the bill is “dead on arrival.”
The outcome does not come as a great surprise. It was only a week ago when Groene, prior to his sudden resignation, said that the legislation was “just a shell bill” that he intended to replace with a more comprehensive proposal.
“I did it two hours prior to the deadline to drop a bill. It’s not gonna be the final product,” Groene told the station at the time.
“Our bill will treat it like medicine. It will respect it. And we added inhalers, pills and inhalers. That’s what medicine is. I don’t know of another medicine you smoke,” he added.
The failed legislation comes amid a separate effort to get a medical cannabis proposal on the Nebraska ballot this year.
In September, the group Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana announced that it “recently filed drafts of the measures with the Nebraska Secretary of State and expects to begin circulating petitions later this month.”
The group’s aim is to “qualify a pair of initiatives ahead of the November election next year by gathering roughly 250,000 signatures across the state before the July 7, 2022 deadline.” One initiative would “require the Legislature to enact new statutes protecting doctors who recommend and patients who possess or use medical cannabis from criminal penalty,” according to the Lincoln Star, while the other would require legislators to “to pass legislation creating a regulatory framework that protects private entities that produce and supply medical cannabis.”
The group was spearheaded by Crista Eggers, the mother of a 6-year-old son named Colton who has severe intractable epilepsy.
“We’ve received so much encouragement from individuals all across the state, who support the many patients like our son Colton, who desperately need access to this medicine. No matter what your political background is, we should all agree that criminalizing a medicine that has the potential to alleviate suffering, is both cruel and inhumane,” Eggers said in a press release.
“The current policy doesn’t reflect our family values here in Nebraska, and we’re going to change that. We need everyone who believes in compassion for suffering individuals like my son to be part of this movement and help us win in 2022.”
WOWT reported that Eggers brought Colton to the hearing on Wednesday in Lincoln.
The station said that Eggers and other supporters who are pushing to legalize medical cannabis in the state “chastised those who brought up a bill about medical cannabis when it doesn’t include any way to grow it,” arguing that the “point was to be a distraction to the petition drive underway to put medical marijuana on the November ballot.”
“His most recent EEG showed that he experienced 27 seizures in just 45 minutes. That means while I’ve been in the room, Colton has seized at least 50 times,” Crista Eggers said, as quoted by the station. “A bill like this is a slap in the face—dangling something in the faces of those suffering.”