Gov. Ricketts: ‘If you legalize marijuana, you’re gonna kill your kids’
LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Gov. Pete Ricketts and others opposed to legalizing medical marijuana in Nebraska held a news conference Wednesday in the Capitol rotunda just ahead of a Unicameral hearing on the matter.
The issue is in front of Nebraska lawmakers for a fifth consecutive year months after losing ballot approval in the 11th hour last fall following a ruling by the Nebraska Supreme Court.
As state leaders consider once more to make medical marijuana legal in the state, the governor said “big pot — big marijuana — is a big industry.”
These big brands are trying to go around the regulatory process and experts say it’s dangerous, he said.
Ricketts also likened the Schedule 1 drug to others in the same category, such as LSD, heroin, and ecstasy.
“So this is a dangerous drug that will impact our kids,” the governor said. “If you legalize marijuana, you’re gonna kill your kids. That’s what the data shows from around the country.”
Ricketts was joined at the news conference by former Husker football coach and three-term U.S. Congressman Tom Osborne. Medical cannabis supporters also gathered outside the judiciary committee at the Nebraska State Capitol to express their frustration.
The governor said “surveys” in Colorado indicated marijuana use in “with the last month or so” among 6.5% of eighth-graders — 11.5% over the course of a year; and that nearly 7% of 12th-graders use marijuana or a THC derivative daily there — over 21% on a monthly basis.
“And that has big impacts on people’s cognitive ability — changes their grey matter in their brain, damages their ability to be able to develop their cognitive abilities to be able to think, to do well in school. This is something that’s harming our young people, and it continues on through the workforce,” he said, citing stats from Oregon, Nevada, and Colorado.
Ricketts said the use of marijuana “has a huge human toll,” sharing examples of two fatalities he said were linked to ingested marijuana or THC.
Articles from two of the medical associations cited by the governor as opposed to medical cannabis legalization focus more on concerns about a lack of scientific evidence than about any mortal danger from the drug.
The American Medical Association, one of the organizations Ricketts mentioned, quotes a court brief in a January article about a Mississippi ballot initiative as saying that “while it is possible there may be beneficial medicinal uses of marijuana, numerous evidence-based studies demonstrate that significant deleterious effects abound.” The article also notes that such measures put physicians “at risk of criminal and civil liability.”
Another AMA article quotes a doctor sitting on a Mississippi task force, who expressed concern at the lack of scientific evidence or FDA approval of the use of medical marijuana. “Without the rigorous testing of medications, using unverified treatment options poses a great threat to those patients needing reliable relief for their condition,” Dr. Randy Easterling said.
The only mention of “death” in either article was in relation to the risks of “cannabis-related impaired driving.”
Ricketts also cited the American Psychiatric Association, which has a PDF of its 2019 position statement on the matter posted online. While the document concludes very clearly with “the APA does not endorse cannabis as medicine,” the words “danger” or “dangerous” do not appear in the document. It does state, in part: “Policy and practice surrounding cannabis-derived substances should not be altered until sufficient clinical evidence supports such changes. If scientific evidence supports the use of cannabis-derived substances to treat specific conditions, the medication should be subject to the approval process of the FDA.”
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