Arguments about private selection and the financial advantages of legalizing marijuana had been met with well being and legislation enforcement considerations in a public listening to Friday. And Senators thought-about a proposal to offer native public well being departments the facility to difficulty directed well being measures.
Sen. Justin Wayne launched the proposed state constitutional modification to legalize marijuana for Nebraskans 21 and older. If it’s authorised by the Legislature, voters would resolve on it subsequent yr. Wayne stated greater than 128 million Americans have tried marijuana, and legalizing it might give the state an financial increase. And he stated appearing now would let Nebraskans, reasonably than multinational companies, to reap the advantages.
“It’s going to happen sooner or later. The feds are moving in that direction. And either we can allow local business to participate, or we can wait for Pepsi and Coca-Cola to come in and buy us out,” Wayne stated.
Lancaster County Public Defender Joe Nigro supported the proposal and stated present legal guidelines in opposition to marijuana are enforced unfairly, with Blacks a number of occasions extra like than Whites to be arrested. Nigro stated one purpose was the politics behind former President Richard Nixon’s conflict on medication within the 1960’s and 70’s, as described in a 2016 interview along with his former home coverage advisor John Erlichman.
“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be against the Vietnam War or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did,” Nigro quoted Erlichman saying.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine, talking for the nation attorneys’ affiliation, opposed the proposal. He urged senators to take heed to the specialists.
“The statement (that) marijuana is addictive and it’s harmful has been made by the World Health Organization, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Institute of Health, the American Society for Addiction Medicine, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child (and) Adolescent Psychiatry,” Kleine stated.
Other opponents predicted authorized marijuana can be diverted to the black market to keep away from taxes, much like what’s occurred in Colorado and different states. And State Patrol Superintendent John Bolduc stated it might hurt public security.
“The diversion of legal marijuana to the black market will negatively affect our community and likely result in an increase in drugged and motor vehicle fatalities,” Bolduc stated.
Supporters stated the problem ought to be left as much as voters to resolve; opponents stated senators ought to use their judgment to maintain it off the poll.
Also Friday, the Health and Human Services Committee heard a proposal by Sen. Tony Vargas to offer native public well being departments energy to difficulty directed well being measures. Vargas stated the present system has issues.
“Under our laws, directed health measures from public health departments are required to be approved by the state. And unfortunately even though all the scientific and medical evidence and data supports the directed health measures that our public health departments wanted to issue, they were not approved, and therefore not enacted. The reasons they were not approved were purely political,” Vargas stated.
Health administrators supporting the proposal stated as COVID-19 unfold final yr, some wished to enact masks mandates or stay-at-home orders, however had been turned down by Gov. Pete Ricketts and the state’s chief medical officer Dr. Gary Anthone.
Eventually, some cities enacted masks mandates, utilizing their energy to create ordinances. But Tana Fye, an legal professional for Two Rivers and Southwest Nebraska Public Health Departments, stated metropolis officers have complained they lack the experience to make these choices.
However Christy Abraham, testifying for the League of Nebraska Municipalities, objected to a portion of the invoice that may take energy away from cities.
“The authority to help prevent the control and spread of dangerous diseases has been in statute as an authority for municipalities for decades and decades. And what this bill does is for certain classes of cities, it just outright repeals that authority,” Abraham stated.
Teresa Anderson, director of the Central District Health Department, stated the system now doesn’t work properly.
“The current process is extremely cumbersome and inefficient. It decreases our effectiveness. We are unable to respond in a timely fashion. We miss opportunities to mitigate spread of disease while we wait for permission to practice public health,” Anderson stated.
Ashley Newmyer of the state Department of Health and Human Services opposed the proposal.
“While responding to the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen that a cohesive response strategy is key to stopping the spread of the virus and keeping Nebraskans safe and healthy. If LB637 is enacted, it would be impossible for the state to coordinate a united front on any statewide health emergency,” Newmyer stated.
Supporting the invoice, Adi Pour, director of the Douglas County Health Department, questioned the necessity for a uniform statewide coverage.
“This may not always be the case, since rural and urban areas are different and may have different infectious disease outbreaks,” Pour stated.
Several testifiers stated they objected to the invoice as a result of it offers authorities extra energy. Among them was Mary Hamilton.
“I am totally opposed to giving any kind of jurisdiction to a division of government to control our lives any further and impose impossible mandates for eternity,” Hamilton stated.
The committee took no instant motion on the invoice.
Also Friday, Sen. Bruce Bostelman launched a decision calling for the Natural Resources Committee to look into the current cold-weather energy outages.
“I think what we need to do is have public power come in and explain what happened, and how it happened, and why it happened, and what they’re going to do about it in the future to prevent it from happening again,” Bostelman stated.
The outages had been ordered by the Southwest Power Pool, a 17-state transmission system Nebraska belongs to. Bostelman stated he thinks the position of the facility pool is one query the committee ought to look into.