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Medical marijuana needs spot on ballot
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Medical marijuana needs spot on ballot

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Nebraska lawmakers have sidestepped the question of legalizing medical cannabis. Frequently they’ve explained their resistance by saying legalizing marijuana for medical purposes would create a slippery slope. They say that legalizing medical cannabis would open the door for legalizing recreational use, and then we’d have bushel baskets full of trouble.

We don’t agree totally with the “slippery slope” assertion. Taking the leap from legalized medical cannabis to lawful recreational use is less like a slippery slope and a whole lot more like a punishing climb up a mountain. We know that’s true because Nebraskans have an exceedingly conservative and cautious view of marijuana. Some of the states surrounding Nebraska are far more permissive in their attitudes, but in the Cornhusker State it’s a gigantic leap from medical use to smoking joints at the disk golf course for fun.

Legalizing for medicinal use is significantly different than legalizing the plant for recreational use. People of Nebraska feel compassion toward others whose illnesses cause suffering that could be eased with marijuana. Why would you stop someone in misery from having legal access to the means to ease their pain and cope with their illness?

Granting access to medical cannabis is using the plant to address real-life problems. Medical cannabis occupies the opposite end of the logic spectrum compared to recreational marijuana. When states debate legalizing pot for fun, the talk revolves around taxation, law enforcement and punishing violators. Those topics don’t come up in medical use debates.

What Nebraskans are learning from the legalization of industrial hemp could add some insights to the medical use debate. Farmers who grow industrial hemp must clear a battery of regulations and red tape unlike any other crop that’s legally grown in this state. Among other things, Nebraska’s regulations limit how much of the psychoactive ingredient THC is allowed in hemp. The farmer must burn the crop if there’s too much THC.

If laws about legal hemp can be so restrictive, certainly the rules for medical cannabis will follow suit. Nebraskans are suspicious about marijuana, and that cautious attitude would shape the rules for medical use.

We have cited a variety of reasons that cannabis should be legalized for medical use because those reasons seem to be good arguments supporting Nebraskans’ right to vote on the issue.

There reportedly are 250 volunteer petition circulators in the state. They began collecting signatures Saturday and have until July 7, 2022 to turn in 87,000 verified voter signatures. Voters then would decide two issues: 1) to protect qualified patients from penalties; and, 2) to regulate businesses that provide medical cannabis. If those measures pass, patients will be required to have a written recommendation from a licensed health care provider to qualify for the program.

It’s an iffy proposition whether medical cannabis will make the ballot. We hope it does.

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