Virginia GOP lawmakers begin crafting plans to launch marijuana sales

A Republican senator from Nebraska on Thursday introduced a bill ostensibly to legalize medical marijuana in the state, but activists fear the restrictive measure is an attempt to reverse an effort to enact even greater protections wide for patients in the 2022 election.

Sen. Mike Groene (R) introduced the legislation, which would allow certain patients to purchase and possess cannabis oils, pills and up to two and a half ounces of flower at a limited number of dispensaries. However, smoking or inhaling marijuana would be prohibited, as would making edibles. It is therefore unclear how patients would consume the flower they might possess.

But the main problem is that the bill would maintain that growing marijuana in Nebraska for commercial or personal use is illegal, meaning dispensaries wouldn’t even have a legal way to obtain marijuana products. cannabis for patients.

The bill is also very restrictive when it comes to who is eligible for cannabis. It would only allow access to people with stage IV cancer, uncontrolled seizures, severe muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy or terminal illness with a life expectancy likely less than one year.

It’s backed by the Nebraska chapter of the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), leading some advocates to suspect that the lack of culture provisions is designed to be a “poison pill” while misleading voters. by making them believe that there is a good faith effort to legalize medical cannabis through legislation.

“This appears to be a political stunt,” Jared Moffat, state campaigns manager at the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. “Medical cannabis opponents know there is a viable campaign to put medical cannabis on the ballot, and they know Nebraskans will overwhelmingly support this effort.”

“It’s an attempt to divert our attention from that,” he said. “But it will not succeed because it is clear that this proposal is not a good faith effort to find common ground on the issue.”

The bill comes as Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) continues to work to collect signatures for a pair of medical cannabis legalization initiatives that advocates hope to place on the November ballot. They have until July to collect 87,000 valid signatures to qualify each of their additional measures.

Activists in the group collected enough signatures to qualify a measure to legalize medical marijuana for the 2020 ballot, but the state Supreme Court struck it down, ruling the proposal violated the single-subject rule for citizens’ initiatives.

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Now this legislation de Groene enters the mix for the 2022 session. And SAM Nebraska co-chairman John Kuehn Recount The Lincoln Journal-Star states that this is “a good faith effort and that we are prepared to consider this an acceptable alternative to the establishment of a marijuana industry in the State of Nebraska”.

While advocates don’t necessarily buy this argument given that it would allow dispensaries without the ability to grow marijuana products, some like NMM co-chair Sen. Anna Wishart (D) are willing to work with the senator to get the bill passed in a form more acceptable to patients.

“It would be the status quo,” Wishart said. “I want a safe system, but there are practical realities that patients live with every day. Nobody wants a system that doesn’t work.

Notably, Groene supported a procedural motion to advance Wishart’s broader medical cannabis bill last session.

Jane Kleeb, president of the Nebraska Democrats, jumped on the restrictive nature of Groene’s bill and said it was “not easy or feasible for most” to get a medical cannabis recommendation from a doctor.

Shari Lawlor, a member of Nebraska Families for Medical Cannabis, said the group is “grateful that Senator Groene recognizes the importance of medical cannabis,” but as written, “this is a project of cannabis-free medical cannabis law”.

“He envisions a system with dispensaries but no farmers or growers who actually produce the medical cannabis that patients need,” she said. “And since patients are not allowed to grow medical cannabis themselves under this proposal, there is effectively no way for patients to get the relief they need.”

Governor Pete Ricketts (R) is not a fan of legalization. He teamed up with SAM Nebraska on a recent ad urging residents to oppose cannabis reform in the state. Given the organization’s support for this new GOP proposal, one suspects he may be backing it to make it seem like the administration isn’t deaf to voters’ calls for reform.

Supporters will not be discouraged by the bill’s introduction. They will push forward with complementary medical cannabis initiatives in hopes of bringing the issue to voters.

The campaign deliberately chose to take a bifurcated approach due to the state Supreme Court’s invalidation of the single-subject rule.

One of the legislative initiatives would establish legal protections for patients and doctors around cannabis, while the other would allow private companies to produce and sell medical marijuana products.

Lawmakers tried to push forward medical cannabis legislative reform last year, but as the unicameral legislature debated a bill to legalize medical marijuana in May, it failed to get past the law. filibuster because the body didn’t have enough voice to overcome it.

Wishart and NMM Co-Chair Sen. Adam Morfeld (D) announced in late 2020 that they would also work to get the question of adult marijuana legalization before voters in 2022. But for now , they seem to be focused on the medical cannabis effort. .

For what it’s worth, Nebraska’s attorney general argued in a 2019 opinion that efforts to legalize medical marijuana in the state would be preempted by federal law and “would therefore be unconstitutional.”

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