Medical Marijuana Pros and Cons Discussed

Jan. 25, 2019, 4:37 p.m. ·

Sen. Anna Wishart testifies on her medical marijuana bill (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

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Supporters and opponents of legalizing medical marijuana packed a Capitol hearing room today arguing the pros and cons of legalization.

Sen. Anna Wishart is sponsoring the bill to legalize medical marijuana. The public hearing on her proposal drew a large crowd of supporters, and a smaller number of opponents, to the Capitol. Among the supporters was Carl Munford, who said he suffers from PTSD and chronic pain as a result of being injured in the first Gulf War.

“The only effective treatment for me has been medical marijuana. I had to go to Colorado to get it. And during the weeks I was there, it made the biggest difference in the world. I could have gotten rid of everything I was taking, and I take 20 different medications,” he said.

Also supporting the bill was former state Sen. Tommy Garrett, who recalled a doctor recommending marijuana to his terminally ill father-in-law in the 1970s. Garrett said it improved his father-in-law’s quality of life. “Ask yourself: How is it that doctors are urging patients to use an illegal substance? The answer is quite simple: Because that illegal substance works.”

The proposal also drew support from Shelley Gillen, speaking for the group Nebraska Families for Medical Cannabis. Gillen said her 16-year-old son, Will, suffers from seizures, and could benefit from the drug. And she rejected arguments by opponents, including that marijuana is a gateway drug to more harmful drugs.

“Our family finds all of these arguments to be nothing short of insulting. Many of the FDA-approved meds Will has been on are gateway drugs themselves due to them being highly addictive. Thanks to the FDA, my son is already a drug addict, and not by choice, and he has been ever since he was an infant,” she said.

Opponents of the proposal held a news conference before the hearing. Among those who spoke was former congressman and NU head football coach Tom Osborne. Osborne said 2-3 percent of recruits tested positive for marijuana, and after repeat testing, most of them were kicked off the team within six months.

“You had a lot of guys with a lot on the line. They had a scholarship on the line; the opportunity to play football. And yet even with that on the line, they were not able to stay away from marijuana. So that led me to believe that this idea that marijuana is not addictive is myth, (the idea that) it’s not dangerous is a myth, and I think the public needs to be aware of that,” he said.

Another opponent, Mary Hilton of Lincoln, said at the hearing she has a 19 –year old daughter who suffers from epileptic seizures, which supporters say can be helped by marijuana. “My husband and I have tried most every legal means out there to help our daughter. And we will continue to try any safe new advancements in the treatment of her condition. Yet we have not found the silver bullet,” she said.

“I’m here today to tell you that medical marijuana is not the silver bullet that desperate families and hurting individuals are looking for, and it would be wrong to tout it as a cure-all to suffering and pain until medical evidence supports that claim,” she added.

Wishart has said if her proposal does not pass the Legislature this year, supporters will mount an initiative petition drive. At the opponent’s news conference, State Patrol Superintendent John Bolduc said that could happen regardless of the proposal’s fate, and is not a reason to pass the bill.

“We’ve read the playbook from other states: start with medical marijuana. Go with recreational marijuana. If you can’t get your way there, go with a ballot initiative,” he said.

“Really it’s all about big money coming in, flooding the airwaves with advertisements. And that will come to our state sooner or later. And it’s our job to educate the public, to say enter this with your eyes wide open,” Bolduc added.