Nebraskans suffering from debilitating illnesses could find relief from marijuana under a bill that cleared a first-round vote in the Legislature.
"Colleagues, we need to be strong, we need to be brave," said Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue. "We need to help those that are sick, and ailing and out of options."
Senators voted 27-12 Tuesday to advance a measure that would allow pharmacists to distribute cannabis to patients with cancer, epilepsy and other chronic illnesses.
The bill by Garrett gained support after senators adopted an amendment that would prohibit smoking cannabis and would not include chronic pain as a qualifying condition to receive the drug.
Opponents worry about the details of regulating the drug and the effects of legalizing a substance not approved by the Federal Drug Administration.
"There were moments when I had hope. There were moments when I was crying," said Shelly Gillen, whose son suffers from seizures.
Shelly Gillen and her husband, Dominic Gillen, spend hours every week trying to convince senators to legalize medical marijuana, so their son can take a drug called cannabidiol oil.
"I think the Legislature spoke today that people want to try and do something," Dominic Gillen said. "Instead of the senators continuing to say no to the bill, (they said) let's work together to see what we can do to make this the best possible bill it can be rather than fighting against it."
Proponents say the show of support will allow Garrett and others to amend the bill before second-round debate.
"This is not about stoners getting high," Garrett said. "This is about medicine and helping people."
Another Bellevue senator's bill would allow for a study to see if cannabidiol helps people with severe seizures. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln would oversee the study. LB 390 made it out of committee, and now Crawford's waiting to see what happens with Garrett's bill.