|Photo: NORML Blog|
Those testifying included a medical doctor, a lawyer, one of the original Yippies from the 1960s and an Iowa trucker wearing a "Reverend Reefer" t-shirt, reports Paul Hammel at the Omaha World-Herald.
They urged the board to help Nebraska join 14 other states the allow medicinal cannabis to relieve pain and ease the symptoms of diseases such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis.
"What's so hard to understand? If God put it here, we should use it," said trucker Terry Mitchell of Des Moines, who wore the "Reverend Reefer" shirt. Mitchell said he smokes marijuana three times a day to relieve back pain.
None of the 50 people attending the Monday meeting spoke in opposition to medical marijuana, though Pharmacy Board Chairman Rick Zarek, a pharmacist from Gothenburg, Neb., claimed his colleagues in other states have "reported problems" with medical legalization.
But three of the five members on the pharmacy board claimed their role was "purely advisory," and said supporters of medical marijuana should lobby the Nebraska Legislature or the federal government to change the classification of cannabis from a Schedule I drug, defined as having no medical use.
"That would have to change first before we could take any action," said board member Kevin Borcher, an Omaha pharmacist.
Some medical marijuana supporters disputed that, citing Iowa, where the State Pharmacy Board issued a recommendation earlier this year to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.
Two members of Nebraska's pharmacy board, Robert Marshall of Norfolk and Tom Walsh of Lincoln, said they were willing to take a look at the pro-marijuana materials presented to the board and decide in a few months whether a recommendation should be made.
Ralph Smith, an attorney from Louisville, Neb., who is also director for Patients Out of Time, a medical cannabis advocacy group, said the issue would require a citizen-sponsored ballot initiative to be adopted in Nebraska.
Ballot language is already being prepared in hopes of getting medical marijuana on the ballot in 2012, according to Smith.
"The cat's out of the bag," Smith said. "People know it can help them."
State senators have claimed privately it would be "political suicide" to introduce a bill, according to Bill Hawkins, director of HEMP of Nebraska. The politicians' lack of spine on the issue is increasingly puzzling, however, since medical marijuana has enjoyed majority support nationwide for years.
Those testifying Monday said marijuana is a natural, non-harmful substance that can provide relief from pain that other, more powerful drugs cannot. Some urged legalization of cannabis for recreational use, an issue which will be on the ballot in California this November.
Dr. Alan Worth of Lincoln said marijuana would help his multiple sclerosis symptoms. Former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), a decorated Vietnam War veteran, has advocated its use to treat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to Dr. Worth.