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Medical cannabis bill defeated in Legislature

The attempt to legalize medical cannabis was defeated on Tuesday night while at least 25 people with a vested interest in the bill watched from the balcony and Capital Rotunda.

The bill (LB643), introduced and fought for by Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue, was stonewalled on the second round of consideration and then went down when 33 votes to end the extended debate became out of reach.

Garrett said he thought he had the votes, but several people backed out and in the end, he only got 30.

All along, Garrett initiated the vote for the families, children, and veterans that appealed for the opportunity to be allowed to have the treatment thet thought was right for them.

“We had an opportunity to help people,” Garrett said.

Garrett said the only explanation he had for the defeat of the bill was that some senators were “stuck on stupid.”

Opponents of the bill argued that it had been amended to he point where it wasn’t the same bill that was introduced and needed to go back to the Judiciary Committee for a new hearing. They also claimed that the science needed to catch up to the drug before it could be approved for medical use.

Making public policy is not easy, but it cannot be emotional, said Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg, who led the filibuster. In public policy, decisions should not be made for the few, but for the larger state.

Several senators who supported the bill said they believed that if it was defeated by the Legislature, it would be brought to voters through a ballot initiative. The Legislature would then lose control of its regulation.

“If this bill fails, it’s on the ballot,” said Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash. “And if it’s on the ballot, hold on to your hat.”

Senators adopted amendments to the bill before its ultimate defeat; one by Omaha Sen. Sara Howard would have tightly regulated the use of medical cannabis in the state, and another by Omaha Sen heath Mello would have allocated $2.4 million from the Nebraska Health Care Cash Fund for the bill’s implementation.

The bill as amended would have allowed medical cannabis in pill, oil or liquid form, but no smoking. Only a medical provider could certify a patient’s qualification for the medication.

Medical cannabis products would have to be acquired, possessed and dispensed through compassion centers, one per congressional district and registered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Garrett said he believed the majority of Nebraskans believe it to be a good idea.

He hopes it will be brought back as a ballot issue.

“Power to the people,” he said.

How they voted

A motion to stop a filibuster on a medical cannabis legalization bill (LB643) failed Tuesday night, putting the bill to rest for the session. Thirty-three votes were needed to stop debate and force a vote on the bill.

Details of the vote:

Voting yes (30): Baker, Bloomfield, Bolz, Campbell, Chambers, Coash, Cook, Craighead, Crawford, Ebke, Garrett, K. Haar, Hadley, Hansen, B. Harr, Hilkemann, Howard, Kolowski, Krist, Larson, Lindstrom, McCollister, Mello, Morfeld, Murante, Pansing Brooks, Shilz, Schumacher, Smith, Sullivan

Voting no (15): Brasch, Fox, Friesen, Groene, Hughes, Johnson, Kintner, Kolterman, Kuehn, McCoy, Riepe, Seiler, Stinner, Watermeier, Williams

Present not voting (2): Davis, Scheer

Excused (2): Gloor, Schnoor