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Senator seeks approval for medical marijuana
December 11, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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State Sen. Tommy Garrett believes the use of medical cannabis oil could offer relief to people who suffer from epileptic seizures, Crohn’s Disease, or are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

Garrett, who represents the District 3 Papillion and Bellevue areas, was in Gering on Dec. 4 as part of a series of statewide news conferences in support of LB 643, his bill to allow for the use of medical cannabis oil. Introduced during the 2014 legislative session, the bill now sits on select file.

A retired Air Force intelligence officer, Garrett said he doesn’t drink or take any kind of drugs. But when a number of his constituents approached him for help, he had to get involved.

One of them is Shari Lawlor from Valley, Neb., whose daughter Brooke has suffered from epileptic seizures most of her life and expensive prescription medications have stopped working. If her situation doesn’t improve, the next recommended procedure would be frontal leucotomy brain surgery.

“Many senators oppose this bill because they think everyone will be smoking marijuana,” Lawlor said. “This is oil and it’s given under a doctor’s care. This is a medicine to us and will only be used by a small number of people. It’s not a crime.”

She added some senators seem unable to separate recreational use from medical use when it comes to marijuana. “I hope they can open their minds to the sick and suffering and help them have a better quality of life.”

Dominic Gillen, whose 12-year-old son, Will, also suffers from epileptic seizures, between 50 and 60 of them a day. None of the several medications he’s taken since a small child have a lasting positive impact.

Gillen said the claim that allowing for medical marijuana will only lead to legalization is a false one, usually from people who cannot separate the two uses. “This is a doctor-patient relationship issue and about compassion for suffering people.”

After hearing about the suffering of these Nebraskans, Garrett did what he admitted he had earlier thought he’s never do – draft legislation to allow for medicinal marijuana. “Like a good intelligence office, I did my background research,” Garrett said. “I found a number of studies out there that show the effectiveness of cannabis oil in reducing seizures in epilepsy patients. And some sufferers of Crohn’s Disease have seen it go into complete remission.”

So far, 25 states, along with the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico, have legalized the use of medicinal cannabis to treat a number of diseases.

Garrett said he modeled his bill on the laws in Minnesota, which has tight controls on the use of cannabis oil. Both patients and physicians have to agree to the tight restrictions for its usage.

“This is a compassion issue, not a law enforcement issue,” he said. “Many of these people are suffering and have no other options. That’s why I’m fighting for this bill.”

Garrett also pointed out the problem Nebraska has with legalized marijuana from Colorado is a law enforcement issue, not a medical issue.

Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana by voters mounting a ballot initiative. Once it was approved, the Legislature had no control over it.

“We hope people will listen and contact their senators,” Gillen said. “There are tight controls over marijuana’s medicinal use written into this bill. We want to do this legally, the right way. The evidence is out there this could help many people who are now suffering.”
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