Senator Laura Ebke says medical marijiuana laws in Nebraska should be reexamined

A cannabidiol oil study authorized by the Nebraska Legislature in 2015 has shown the majority of 23 patients in the study have benefited from the cannabis derivative, according to a report from the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Patients in the study were diagnosed with intractable or treatment-resistant seizures.

The drug in the cannabidiol study is the product Epidiolex oral solution, and was approved in June by the Food and Drug Administration. The Drug Enforcement Agency is rescheduling the drug before it is made commercially available, according to the study.

The majority of patients have shown benefits, particularly those with either Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome, according to Dr. Christopher Kratochvil, associate UNMC vice chancellor for clinical research.

Lennox-Gastaut syndrome is a form of severe epilepsy that begins in childhood, usually from ages 3 to 5. It produces multiple types of seizures and intellectual disability.

Dravet syndrome is a rare, lifelong form of epilepsy that begins in the first year of life with frequent or prolonged seizures and sometimes both.

This study was authorized by LB390, introduced by Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue. It passed the same year as LB643 was introduced by Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue.

That bill got through the first round of debate, but was withdrawn at the end of the session by its sponsor.

Garrett’s bill would have legalized medical cannabis for a variety of illnesses. While a medical cannabis bill has been introduced in most sessions since then, it has not moved successfully through three rounds of debate.

Incumbent Sen. Laura Ebke, who’s seeking reelection this fall as a libertarian in the 32nd Legislative District, was a co-sponsor of LB632, introduced in January 2017 by Lincoln Senator Anna Wishart.

Also known as the Medical Cannabis Act, LB632 is a comprehensive medical marijuana bill that would be more restrictive compared to other states and would prohibit smoking of cannabis.

That bill was indefinitely postponed this past April.

“I think (medical marijuana) is something we really need to look at,” Ebke said. “It’s obvious it has some benefits for some people. Medical marijiuana is generally less serious as a health risk than is a opioid.”

Side effects for medical marijuana included sleepiness, unsteady gait, lethargy and a drop in blood platelet count. The side effects generally resolved when dosages of the drug or other seizure medications were adjusted, according to the study.

Ebke sponsored a bill, LB167, in 2017 that would reschedule drugs containing cannabidiol that have been approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration as Schedule V drugs, putting them on the same level as cough syrup.

That bill was also postponed indefinitely.

“I think we’re getting closer to the point where we say, ‘Okay, there is something good about this,'” Ebke said. “So, maybe it’s time for us to give it a shot.”

A February 2017 sampling of likely Nebraska voters showed 77 percent of those surveyed would vote in favor of allowing doctors in the state to prescribe medical marijuana to patients with serious illnesses or conditions.

Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed identified themselves as Republican or leaning Republican, and 27 percent as a Democrat or leaning Democrat.

Lincoln Sen. Anna Wishart introduced a resolution in the 2018 legislative session to allow voters to weigh in on a constitutional amendment that would legalize medical cannabis. The resolution was sent by the Judiciary Committee to the full Legislature for first-round debate, but was killed at the end of the session.

You can follow Tommy on Twitter @Tommy_NCN.

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