Medical marijuana in Nebraska? Bill reaches full Legislature, but sponsor not confident it will pass

Medical marijuana in Nebraska? Bill reaches full Legislature, but sponsor not confident it will pass
World-Herald News Service

LINCOLN — A bill advanced Friday will give Nebraska lawmakers the chance to consider a “moderate approach” to legalizing medicinal cannabis in the state.

A compromise version of Legislative Bill 110, introduced by State Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln, cleared the Judiciary Committee on a 5-1 vote, with one member abstaining and another one absent.

Wishart said the measure represents months of negotiations with medical providers, law enforcement representatives, business groups and potential users.

“It’s a moderate approach, but it still provides access to people who are most in need,” she said. “It is one of the best public health models in the country.”

But the measure faces an uphill battle in the full Legislature and, if passed, would face a likely veto from Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Wishart herself gave the bill less than a 30% chance of passing and Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, the Judiciary Committee chairman, predicted it would have a difficult time.

Both said LB 110 offers lawmakers the chance to have a carefully thought out process for regulating the production, distribution and use of medicinal cannabis in Nebraska.

“I think it makes sense,” Lathrop said. “I don’t think it will fail because it’s not thought through.”

The alternative is an initiative petition measure that Wishart launched last year along with Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln. The petition effort is aimed at the 2020 general election.

Pregnant inmates. Nebraska would ban the use of shackles and other restraints on pregnant jail and prison inmates under a bill given first-round approval Thursday.

Legislative Bill 690, introduced by State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha, would be similar to legislation passed in 22 other states and at the federal level.

The bill would allow exceptions only in extraordinary circumstances and only if medical professionals treating the woman do not object.

Cavanaugh said restraints can harm a woman and her baby, especially if used during labor, delivery and recovery. Leg and waist shackles can create a tripping risk. Heavy chains around a woman’s belly can bruise her abdomen and harm her fetus.

Restraints during labor and delivery can prevent women from being able to change positions as needed and can hamper medical staff’s ability to assist the birth or take emergency measures. Restraints during recovery can increase the risk of blood clots.

Cavanaugh said there have been no cases of unshackled women trying to escape during labor.

Sen. Julie Slama of Peru pointed to cases elsewhere in the nation in which the use of shackles and restraints has harmed pregnant women. There have been no documented cases in Nebraska, but the practice has not been tracked.

White supremacy. Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt and 36 co-sponsors introduced a resolution Thursday to condemn “racist violence and domestic terror attacks motivated by white supremacy and white nationalism.”

If approved by the full Legislature, Legislative Resolution 118 would put the Legislature on record as rejecting “groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, white supremacy, and white nationalism as hateful groups of intolerance contrary to the values of Nebraskans.”

The measure recognizes Lori Kaye of Poway, California, who was killed when a gunman attacked her synagogue near San Diego, as well as the three people injured in that attack.

The suspect has been linked to an arson fire at a San Diego mosque and allegedly was motivated by white supremacist and white nationalist ideologies.

The measure also recognizes the hundreds of other people killed and injured in attacks motivated by religious hatred and offers support to communities victimized by acts of violent bigotry.

Lincoln candidate. Neal Clayburn of Lincoln, a former teacher and executive with the Nebraska State Education Association, has announced plans to run for the Legislature in 2020. He will seek the District 29 seat now held by Sen. Kate Bolz, who is term-limited.

Clayburn is a U.S. Navy veteran who worked as a teacher and coached wrestling, football and track, before serving as executive director of the Lincoln Education Association from 1991 to 2006.

He has been associate executive director of the NSEA since 2006.

His great-grandfather, Henry Clayburn, served in the Nebraska Legislature from 1915 to 1917.

The elder Clayburn was nominated on both the Democratic and Republican tickets at a time when the Legislature was partisan.

Sarpy candidate. Jen Day, an Omaha small business owner and founder, is challenging Sen. Andrew La Grone of Gretna for the legislative seat representing Gretna and northwestern Sarpy County.

Day and her husband own Artis Strength and Fitness in west Omaha, where she coaches several classes. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Gov. Pete Ricketts appointed La Grone to the District 49 seat in December after former Sen. John Murante was elected state treasurer.