LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Year after year, Nebraska’s conservative lawmakers have rejected measures calling for limited and highly regulated medical marijuana.
They’re poised to do it again, but their decision this year could have the unintended consequence of ushering in one of the most unrestricted medical marijuana laws in the country.
If so, Nebraska will join a growing number of conservative states with unusually easy marijuana access, all because red-state lawmakers refuse to touch the issue and thereby make way for ballot initiatives.
Last year, Oklahoma became a vivid example. Billboards there now display a smiling white-coated doctor offering same-day service for marijuana prescriptions. Idaho, Wyoming, and Mississippi may face marijuana ballot initiatives soon after legislators rejected medical marijuana with tight controls.
Meanwhile, 18 other states, including more liberal Illinois, New York and Vermont, have legislated restrictions that make legal marijuana harder to get.
“It’s a head-scratcher,” said Bryan Boganowski, founder of the pro-marijuana group NORML in Omaha, about the Nebraska Legislature’s position. “I have no idea what’s going on down in Lincoln.”
Since 2010, legislators have rejected medical marijuana bills three times, even measures that allowed only low levels of the drug’s active ingredient and restricted it to creams and oils with a ban on smoking. They refused to approve programs as neighboring states took action, ranging from legalizing recreational marijuana in Colorado to approving highly limited access in Iowa.
Nebraska advocates tried again this year, but with a threat: Lawmakers could approve a bill that requires people to get a state-issued registry card, limits the potency of marijuana, allows its use only for certain medical conditions and lets patients have no more than 8 ounces of the drug in their home, or supporters would place a measure with almost no restrictions on the ballot.
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