On Friday, several prominent Nebraskans voiced opposition to state legislation legalizing medical marijuana. Their comments are below:

Governor Pete Ricketts: “The United States has the best system of medical research in the world, and pharmaceutical drugs should be tested by it to determine if they are safe and effective.  I oppose attempts to circumvent this system, such as LB 110, which the Legislature is currently considering.  Public health depends on the integrity of our medical research process and practice, and legalizing marijuana without traditional medical trials gambles with the health and safety of the people of Nebraska.”

Lt. Governor Mike Foley: “The Governor and I have opposed attempts to legalize through the legislative process, because we believe that the tried and tested avenue for developing safe and effective pharmaceutical drugs runs through our research universities and FDA review process. Policy makers have an obligation to protect public safety and health, and legalizing marijuana in Nebraska through the legislative process puts our families, our kids, and our communities at risk.”

Former Governor Kay Orr: “These dangerous effects from marijuana and the harm it does to our poorest communities do not suddenly go away simply because the drug is legalized and dressed up in a cloak of respectability.  The marijuana industry has tried to convince us that the drug does not cause any long-term negative impact.  Despite their claims, study after study demonstrates that marijuana’s impact disproportionately impacts our youth and poor especially within states that have legalized the drug.”

Former Husker Football Coach Tom Osborne: “My main concern about the ‘medical marijuana’ bill before you is the impact it will have on young people.  Research has shown that marijuana use appears to have a negative impact on adolescent brain development and is often related to the development of mental disorders, schizophrenia being a major concern.  I work with young people daily in the Teammates Mentoring Program and anything which negatively impacts those 10,000 odd young people is a great concern to me.”

Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Behavioral Health Division Director Sheri Dawson: “In terms of behavioral health, we have concerns with the effect of marijuana on youth.  Cannabis can be harmful to adolescents and young adults because of its impact on their developing brains.  Use during adolescence may increase the risk of cognitive emotional impairments and have other negative effects.  For individuals admitted to Division of Behavioral Health services, marijuana is the third most common drug of use.  While studies vary, we do know that there is a percentage of individuals who try the drug who will become addicted.”

Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Psychiatrist Dr. James Sorrell: “Another significant concern and reason for abundant restraint with legalizing marijuana is that over the last five years there is a consensus in the scientific literature that use of marijuana by adolescents and young adults is substantially and strongly associated with a striking increase in the of psychosis and schizophrenia.  The incidence of this is increasing with escalating rates of use among high school students and the increasing potency of the marijuana available to them.  Furthermore, more recent evidence demonstrates a loss of IQ among youth up to the age of 33 who use marijuana.  This drop-off in intelligence is a significant one and not merely a laboratory artifact.”

Nebraska State Patrol Superintendent Col. John Bolduc: “As a public servant, I appreciate the compassion behind this bill, but am all too familiar with the unintended consequences of legalizing any form of marijuana.  We know that marijuana impacts a user’s central nervous system, and must not presume registry participants will remain sequestered at home for the duration of the effects.  Accordingly, based on my 33 years of experience, I am certain Nebraskans will suffer significant public safety consequences.”

Former Health and Human Service Committee Chairman & Former State Senator Jim Jensen of Omaha: “As a former member of the Unicameral, I know how much Senators have worked to protect this institution and build respect for the tradition of our citizen Legislature.  Our system of modern medicine has benefitted from the research and work led by the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, over the last 100 years since its founding in 1906.  We need to protect this institution as well.  Should the Unicameral approve LB 110, this body will be signaling that it no longer trusts the ability of the FDA to determine whether drugs are safe and effective.  The Unicameral can expect to eventually see additional proposals regarding other drugs and substances to come before this body for consideration for legalization.”

Former State of Nebraska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tom Williams: “A principal concern would be that importance of a medical background is either diluted or eliminated at key junctures.  Practitioners qualify patients to participate but then apparently abandon medical oversight.  ‘Processors’ are assigned the role of prescriber of cannabis form and dose for patients and even counseling about non-cannabis drug interactions—all of which fundamentally constitutes practicing medicine.”

Mary Hilton of Lincoln: “I am here today as a concerned mother who has a 19-year-old daughter with epilepsy.  I understand the desperation that a parent feels when traditional pharmaceuticals and treatments fail to bring the kind of help that their child needs.  My husband and I have tried most every legal means out there to help our daughter, yet we have not found the silver bullet.  And I am here today to tell you that medical marijuana is not the silver bullet that desperate families are looking for, and it would be wrong tout it as a cure-all to pain and suffering when the evidence does not support that claim.”