Nebraska governor claims legalizing medical marijuana will 'kill your children'

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts delivers the annual State of the State Address to lawmakers in Lincoln, Neb., Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021.
  • Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said legalizing medical marijuana would lead to kids dying.

  • Ricketts was citing a study that connected more frequent marijuana use among kids who die by suicide and states that already have legalized marijuana.

  • His remarks come as Nebraska's state legislature weighs a bill that would legalize medical marijuana.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The governor of Nebraska pushed back on the state's consideration of legalizing medical marijuana, claiming it would lead to the death of their kids.

"This is a dangerous drug that will impact our kids," Gov. Pete Ricketts said during a news briefing Wednesday. "If you legalize marijuana, you're gonna kill your kids. That's what the data shows from around the country."

Asked to elaborate on the data by USA TODAY, a spokesperson for Ricketts pointed to two studies that concluded teens who died by suicide in multiple states that had legalized marijuana used it more frequently.

His remarks come as Nebraska's state legislature weighs a bill that would make legal medical marijuana that's recommended by a practicing physician. The idea is that physicians would have control over their patients' marijuana consumption, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

Though Ricketts' linked his claim to recreational marijuana, the bill being weighed would allow residents to use and consume medical marijuana in the form of pills or oils. Smoking marijuana would not be legalized upon this bill's passing.

Marijuana is federally designated as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has "no currently accepted medical use." However, "THC itself has proven medical benefits in particular formulations," according to the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse. In terms of recreational usage, experts and agencies like the Centers for Disease Control say a "fatal overdose is unlikely."

Ricketts' office did not immediately return Insider's request for comment.

"Big pot, big marijuana is a big industry," he continued. "This 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."

Advocates in favor of the bill's passing include its sponsor, Lincoln, Nebraska, Sen. Anna Wishart, who on Wednesday delivered an impassioned argument in support, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.

"This bill is not going to fail because of a lack of compromise," Wishart said before the state's judiciary committee. "If this bill fails to pass, it is because of political pressure from a few who wield their power to stamp out the will of the people. The people will not be silenced."

If the bill doesn't pass, Wishart, a Democrat, said she expects activists to propose a ballot initiative that allows Nebraskans to vote. This, in turn, would give physicians less control over marijuana consumption and make it more difficult to regulate.

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