Would it be wise and compassionate for Nebraska to join with other states in allowing marijuana use for medical-related issues?
Or would it be dangerous and foolish to head down the potential path of more drug use among Nebraskans?
Those questions — and others — will be up for discussion Monday when the Daily News hosts a community conversation on the medical marijuana issue.
Also sponsored by CalmWater Financial Group of Norfolk and Northeast Community College, the community conversation is set for Monday, March 11, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Cox Activities Center theater on the Northeast campus. The public is invited to attend.
Students from Norfolk’s three high schools have been invited to attend and share their thoughts. Various law enforcement and legal system representatives and area state senators also have been invited to attend.
Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln is one of two primary sponsors of Legislative Bill 110 that would, if passed, allow marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes. Gov. Pete Ricketts, Attorney General Doug Peterson and numerous law enforcement representatives are among those who have opposed the bill. They cite fears that, among other concerns, passage could serve as a pathway to greater drug usage in Nebraska.
LB110 remains in committee and has not been the subject of floor debate in the Unicameral. But if the bill does not survive this session in the Legislature, its sponsors also are working on a petition issue that, if successful, would place the same issue on an upcoming ballot for Nebraskans to vote on.
The goal of the March 11 community conversation is designed to share information and opinions on all sides of this issue and allow those in attendance to interact with three special guests — Wishart, Luke Niforatos and Ally Dering-Anderson — who will participate.
Before being elected to office, Wishart worked at the Legislature for six years as a staff member. She also has run several advocacy and legislative campaigns. In 2011, she was elected to the Lincoln Airport Authority and served as its chairwoman.
She was elected to the Legislature in 2016 and serves on the Appropriations Committee. She works as director of partnerships at Beyond School Bells, a coalition aimed at improving access to quality after-school and summer school programs for students.
Niforatos serves as the chief of staff and senior policy adviser at Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). The Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit organization’s mission is “to educate citizens on the science of marijuana and to promote health-first, smart policies and attitudes that decrease marijuana use and its consequences.”
In his role with SAM, Niforatos presides over strategic federal, state and educational initiatives. He previously spent his career working in nonprofit community health care. Having lived in Colorado during legalization of marijuana there, Niforatos said he has seen firsthand the disastrous effects of lax marijuana policies.
Dering-Anderson is a clinical associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice & Science at the University of Nebraska College of Pharmacy. She coordinates and teaches the law and ethics classes at the college.
She is serving as the president this year of the Nebraska Pharmacists Association, and she has spoken nationally and internationally on pharmacy topics.
For those unable to attend the conversation in person, it will be available online via a Facebook Live broadcast by the Daily News.