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Next year, Nebraskans will vote on a ballot initiative, provided the required voter signatures are acquired, on whether to legalize medical cannabis.

To reach the best humanitarian outcome, the following lesser-known but crucially important facts should be a part of the public discussion.

* Federal agencies have consistently blocked large-scale research studies into the effectiveness of cannabis. Food and Drug Administration approval of medical cannabis requires such large-scale studies, which means FDA approval is virtually impossible without significant changes at the federal level.

* Two-thirds of the states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories have approved cannabis for medical use in one form or another, yet cannabis does not have FDA approval. Nebraskans will be voting whether our state should join this group.

* If Nebraska voters approve medical cannabis in 2020, someone 18 or older, if recommended by a licensed physician or nurse practitioner, has the right to use, possess, access, purchase, and safely and discreetly produce an adequate supply of cannabis, cannabis products and cannabis-related equipment to alleviate a serious medical condition.

* Pharmaceutical companies are fighting the legalization of plant-based cannabis while seeking approval from the FDA for their own patented synthetic cannabis medications. The FDA can approve synthetic cannabis because the federal restriction on large-scale studies applies only to plant-based cannabis, not synthetic cannabis. Ironically, Big Pharma believes in cannabis to treat various medical conditions, but it is against competition arising from the plant-based version of those same chemicals.

* Large-scale research studies in other nations have proven the efficacy of cannabis and its derivatives to modify the course of autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and even cancer.

A vote for medical cannabis in Nebraska is a vote, without social detriment, for much-needed humanitarian relief for thousands of Nebraskans who currently suffer from many of our most brutal diseases.

Suzanne V. Shackelford, Lincoln

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