Medical marijuana pilot study passed

Medical marijuana will be available in Nebraska on a limited basis under a bill passed May 21.

Introduced by Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford, LB390 creates a pilot study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) to allow access to low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil for patients who suffer intractable or treatment-resistant seizures.

The bill authorizes the University of Nebraska and Nebraska Medicine to be Nebraska’s only producers and possessors of cannabidiol for research. The cannabidiol can contain up to three-tenths percent of THC, the active ingredient of the cannabis plant. Practitioners, patients and their parents or legal guardians participating in the study are exempt from prosecution for possession of a controlled substance.

The study will designate at least two physicians, one of whom must be a pediatric neurologist, to conduct research on the safety and preliminary effectiveness of cannabidiol use. The physicians are responsible for determining patient eligibility for participation in the study.

UNMC is required to submit a report annually to the Judiciary and Health and Human Services committees of the Legislature and the Clerk of the Legislature, beginning Sept. 15, 2016. The report will include the number of patients currently and previously enrolled in the study, changes in intractable seizure frequency and severity, adverse effects of treatment and a summary of appropriate dosing.

The study is funded through two $250,000 transfers for fiscal years 2015-16 and FY2017-18 from the state Medicaid Intergovernmental Trust Fund and the state Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund to the Nebraska Health Care Cash Fund. The bill also updates transfer amounts to the health care fund from the two trust funds.

The bill contains provisions of LB546, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, which exempt an individual from prosecution who prescribes or dispenses naloxone, a morphine-like synthetic drug, to a person experiencing an opioid-related overdose.

Provisions of LB326, introduced by Gothenburg Sen. Matt Williams, update the state’s Uniform Controlled Substances Act to prohibit the newest compounds of synthetic cannabinoids, also known as K2.

Senators passed the bill with an emergency clause on a 44-2 vote.

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