As Nebraska state lawmakers consider a bill to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts is using scare tactics in his campaign against the measure. During a public appearance on Wednesday, Ricketts said that cannabis will “kill your children” despite the fact that cannabis has never been credibly linked to a fatal overdose.
“This is a dangerous drug that will impact our kids. If you legalize marijuana, you’re gonna kill your kids,” Ricketts said. “That’s what the data shows around the country. Don’t legalize marijuana in the state of Nebraska.”
To back his ridiculous claim, Ricketts cited the federal government’s placement of marijuana in Schedule 1 under the Controlled Substances Act along with heroin, a designation that is supposed to apply only to drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high propensity for addiction. Ricketts added that the legalization of medical marijuana is a “dangerous” attempt to circumvent the normal drug approval process.
“Big pot, big marijuana is a big industry,” Ricketts said. “This is a big industry that is trying not to be regulated, to go around the regulatory process. And that’s going to put people at risk: when you go around regulations that are designed for the health and safety of our society.”
Medical Marijuana Bill Pending
Ricketts made the comments at an appearance with former University of Nebraska head football coach Tom Osborne and other state and local leaders to oppose a bill from state Sen. Anna Wishart that would legalize the medicinal use of cannabis. At a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Wishart noted that the measure is similar to a bill that was introduced last year but failed to advance in the state legislature.
“But a lot has changed in the hearts and minds of countless Nebraskans who are impacted by these words,” Wishart said.
Ricketts remarks were quickly rebuked by cannabis activists, who compared them to the anti-marijuana film “Reefer Madness.” Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said that Ricketts’ views are unfounded.
“Governor Ricketts’ comments are so outlandish that they border on pure parody. Upon seeing them, I had to check my calendar to make sure it was still 2021, and not 1950,” said Altieri. “His claims are not backed up by science or the real-world experience of the over a dozen states which have already legalized marijuana for adult use, they seem to exist only in his troubled imagination.”
State Sen. Adam Morfeld, a Democrat who is one of 11 senators who have endorsed Wishart’s bill, responded to Ricketts’ comments in a tweet, saying “It’s really hard to have a reasonable conversation with someone like this.”
Wishart said that if her bill does not succeed in the legislature this year, proponents of medical marijuana will spearhead a simple, one-sentence voter initiative to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis. A more complex measure that was approved by voters in the 2020 election was subsequently nullified by the Nebraska Supreme Court on the grounds that it failed to meet requirements limiting initiatives to one subject.