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Medical cannabis would help sick, ailing

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Bottom line up front: The Cannabis Compassion and Care Act (LB643) is all about making life better for Nebraskans who are sick and ailing. Period! Nothing more...nothing less. This is entirely about helping very sick people in need who deserve the right to a medication that treats their illnesses.

Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is currently classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as a Schedule 1 narcotic along with PCP, heroin and LSD. The technical description of a Schedule 1 controlled substance is that it has “no accepted medical use, a lack of accepted safety for use even under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.”

Oh really? Why then did an oncologist tell my father-in-law back in 1978 that smoking cannabis could help alleviate the symptoms (i.e. severe nausea beyond the average person’s imagination and lack of appetite) of the aggressive chemotherapy that he was undergoing for his pancreatic cancer? The oncologist was exactly right...the marijuana, illegally acquired, rather easily I might add, did exactly what the doctor said it would do.

There is a huge amount of evidence published in numerous studies and reports of the medical efficacy of cannabis. So why then does the DEA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continue to classify it as a Schedule 1 controlled substance? Why have 23 states and the District of Columbia all decided to legalize medical marijuana? There are numerous other states that are currently looking to legalize marijuana as well.

You have to ask yourself why that is. Are all these states ignorant? Or is this just another issue in a long line of issues that the bureaucrats in Washington have gotten wrong?

An editorial last week in opposition to my Cannabis Compassion and Care Act (LB643) suggests that we defer to the judgment of the FDA and snidely suggests that this is about more than medical use. This is a charge for which I take great offense. I have never smoked cannabis or taken drugs...I don’t even drink alcohol. I am adamantly opposed to the legalization of the recreational use of cannabis, just as I would be opposed to individuals being able to buy prescription drugs like OxyContin, and Adderall at their local liquor store for recreational use, or people being able to buy paint and glue to sniff at a bar.

I believe we do a grave disservice to those who are suffering with a myriad of illnesses for which cannabis has shown medical efficacy.

The reason that I sponsored this bill to legalize cannabis for medicinal use and reschedule cannabis from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 2 at the state level is that I got to know some of the Nebraska families who have children who have epilepsy and uncontrollable seizures.

Shari Lawlor’s 22-year old daughter takes $35,000 worth of medications every year (at taxpayer expense since she’s on Medicaid) and the medicines aren’t working. Her next step on the treatment regime is to have brain surgery on her frontal lobe.

Imagine for a minute that this was your daughter, wife or sister. If your next option on the treatment scale is brain surgery but there was the possibility of using medical marijuana as another treatment option wouldn’t you want to do it?

There is a well-documented and reported case of a young girl in Colorado, Charlotte Figi, who was having over 300 seizures every week. Imagine that...over 300 times every week watching your precious daughter convulsing uncontrollably. Her prognosis was terrible and her parents had signed a do not resuscitate order. Then they had the opportunity to try a high CBD strain of cannabis. The effects were immediate and stunning. Charlotte went from having 300 seizures a week to having one.

As I write this letter from my office in the State Capitol, back in Bellevue a constituent of mine, Becky Budden, sits in the hospital with her daughter Alice who was rushed to the emergency room this weekend due to non-stop epileptic seizures and vomiting. Alice’s expensive prescription medication cocktail isn’t working.

The result of this little girl’s current method of treatment is a bruised face. All because the state is denying Alice access to a medication that has consistently been shown to demonstrate effectiveness in controlling seizures. While Becky begs for help for her daughter, D.C. bureaucrats at the FDA fail to respond proving once again that “Washington is broken.”

While Washington may be broken, Nebraska is not. States have rights and I trust that the decision makers here in Lincoln will join me in looking at the research and see that cannabis has demonstrated effectiveness in treating cancer, ALS, MS, Dravet’s syndrome and other terminal and debilitating illnesses. I’m doing this because stuff needs fixing.

Sen. Tommy Garrett represents District 3 (Bellevue/Papillion) in the Legislature.

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