The state of Nebraska is on the verge of making history! As the United States of America has already granted legal use of medical marijuana in 33 states (U.S. Statistics), suitable patients in Nebraska are hoping to secure a spot on this special list.
In a state where possession of cannabis is a punishable offence (Nebraska Marijuana Laws), Nebraska State Senator Anna Wishart, representing District 27, has made significant progress towards passing Legislative Bill 110. Since 2018, Senator Anna Wishart has been dedicated to advocating for responsible access to medical marijuana for patients who could benefit from its natural therapeutic properties. Just over a week ago, the Senator and the citizens of Nebraska accomplished an honest victory in pushing the Legislative Bill 110 to the next phase in legislation. Although there is still a long way to go, this win was a crucial one as it will pave the way for patients looking for alternative forms of medicine.
As the bill moves forward and will be considered for full legislature in the upcoming days, patients are hoping to finally have treatment options beyond those of big pharma. Patients have been suffering for years, some due to inadequate control of their disease symptoms and others from the adverse side effects of conventional pharmaceutical drug therapies. Patients are hopeful to medicate with an ancient medication that was once used by our ancestors across the world.
Dating back to thousands of years, cannabis use has been recorded in many cultures as an herbal remedy. The variations of cannabis plants, Sativas and Indicas, have emerged from parts of Eastern Asia and the Indian subcontinent, respectively.
Most cannabis users claim that Sativa plants provide an uplifting energy, whereas the Indica plants provide a more calming effect.
The cannabis plant contains hundreds of biologically active compounds including cannabinoids and terpenes. The two most well researched phytocannabinoids, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), were discovered by a team of researchers lead by Dr. Ralph Mechoulam. This imperative discovery led to years of extensive research regarding the medical properties of phytocannabinoids and their interactions with the human brain and body. Both plant cannabinoids are known for their unique and overlapping medical properties, however, THC is responsible for a patient to experience the psychoactive “high”, whereas CBD is devoid of this property. Along with cannabinoids, additional biological active compounds such as terpenes, have shown to help with a vast number of disease ailments by serving as anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and anti-epileptic agents. Medical patients have reported benefits of the plant product in improving mood, regulating sleep and appetite, and reducing pain overall.
The legalization of the proposed medical marijuana program in Nebraska will bring hope to many patients; however, the governing bodies will impose tight regulations for access to medicine. Currently, only qualifying medical patients who have received a prescription from a medical doctor, nurse practitioner or a physician assistant will be authorized for the use of medical cannabis.
A physical exam must be performed during the consultation appointment to screen for suitability. Currently, the list of qualifying medical conditions includes the following:
o Epileptic seizures
o Hepatitis C
o Chron’s Disease
o Ulcerative colitis
o Spinal cord injury
o Muscle spasms from Multiple Sclerosis
o Muscular dystrophy
o Terminal illness
o Nausea or cachexia due to medical condition
Patients will also be screened for alcohol and substance abuse, personal and family history of schizophrenia and any form of psychotic disorder. This does not apply to those patients that are terminally ill, allowing patients who are facing end-of-life circumstance to fair access to the medication. Additionally, the passing of the bill will allow patients from other states who are authorized medical users to also obtain safe access to their medication while on vacation or extended stay in Nebraska.
For the safety of the people of Nebraska, Legislative Bill 110 would ensure that safety measures are being put into place. Possession amounts and consumption methods will be heavily regulated. For medical patients, what exactly does this mean? Patients would be limited to a possession amount of 2.5 ounces, and must not exceed 2000 mg of THC. However, for some patients, exceptions to the maximum quantity may be made by their prescribing practitioner on a case-by-case basis.
Smoking cannabis would still be considered illegal. Patients will be allowed to order their medication in the form of cannabis oils that can be ingested or used to make home-made edibles.
The authorities will tightly regulate the use of cannabis and operating heavy machinery, including driving or operating a car, boat, train, or aircraft. This will control any negligence or malpractice that may occur while under the influence of cannabis.
Although there will be strict controls in place, this government program will lead to responsible access to qualified patients and decreased use of cannabis from the streets (underground black market). This will evidently aid in reducing the number of unsafe use and criminal activity paired with illegal substance use. Patients will obtain their medical cannabis from state-approved licensed producers that have gone through extreme measures in quality control and testing of the product. Ultimately, patients will receive medication that is safe and compliant within the rules and regulations of the state.
Furthermore, educational institutions will allocate resources for the research and development team to continue to learn and discover the astonishing properties of medical cannabis. Regulatory bodies for prescribing practitioners will be focused on developing courses to educate prescribers on the safe and effective practice of prescribing medical cannabis.
The passing of Legislative Bill 110 will not only impact the medicinal user and the medical community but the entire state of Nebraska. Local businesses and larger companies will have opportunities to flourish and compete with the growing industry of cannabis production. More employment opportunities will be created and the overall economy will benefit from the decrease of underground marijuana sales. The four main types of businesses to establish over the next few years will include: licensed producers, those that grow cannabis under highly regulated environments; processors, who will produce products such as salves, oils, tinctures, and edibles; dispensaries, a chain of retail shops that will dispense medication to qualified patients; and laboratories, where scientists and researchers will test cannabis products for potency and contaminants.
The benefits are endless, however medical users will still face challenges. Under the current proposed bill, employers are not required to accommodate medical cannabis use. What does this mean for the people of Nebraska? Employees may not be able to medicate during regular work hours when it may be most needed. Patients may experience heightened anxiety knowing that they are not able to treat their pain during work hours, potentially leading to more sick days or unhealthy work environments.
Additionally, insurance companies will not be required to cover expenses, meaning that the patient will have to pay out of pocket. As growing their own cannabis is not an option under the proposed law, the only access patients will have to medical cannabis is through dispensaries. Patients will suffer from increased competition and sales that will inadvertently lead to an increase in costs of medical marijuana.
The upcoming weeks will determine the fate of Legislative Bill 110. The cannabis community stands by Senator Anna Wishart and cheers her on, as she advocates for the thousands of patients who will benefit from the passing of the bill.
Although many believe that medical cannabis is a “wonder drug” or a means to “cure” all diseases, this has not been proved yet. It is safe to say that there is an immense amount of research that supports the use of medical cannabis to improve one’s overall quality of life and it is exciting to see the state of Nebraska recognize this promising prospect in the future of medicine. We look forward to following the positive changes in the state of Nebraska with respect to cannabis use in the medical community.