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Nebraska Activists Call For Donors And Volunteers For Medical Marijuana Ballot Campaign After Funding Setback

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“If any campaign can do it solely with a grassroots signature drive, it’s ours.” 

By Paul Hammel, Nebraska Examiner

An initiative petition drive seeking to legalize medical cannabis in Nebraska has issued an urgent plea for donations and volunteers after reportedly losing a major contributor.

In an email to supporters on Wednesday, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana said that due to “a personal and tragic circumstance,” a “committed donor” is no longer able to fund its petition drive this year.

The email called on supporters to “show our grit” by volunteering to pass petitions, or helping raise $500,000 to finance paid petition circulators by May 1.

State Sen. Adam Morfeld (D) of Lincoln, a leader of the petition drive, said Thursday that Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana is confident additional funds can be raised “to fill the gap.”

Terminal illness

“Our campaign has an incredible amount of grassroots support,” Morfeld said. “We have hundreds of well-organized volunteers who are out gathering signatures, and more supporters sign up to help every day.”

He declined to name the major funder who can’t support the cause, but did say that a terminal illness prevented the donation.

Morfeld called it “possible, but very difficult” to qualify an initiative for the ballot without using paid circulators, but “if any campaign can do it solely with a grassroots signature drive, it’s ours.”

The development is a major setback for an effort that collected more than 122,000 signatures two years ago to qualify for the ballot, but was kicked off by the Nebraska Supreme Court. The court ruled that the initiative’s language violated the state’s “single-subject” rule, which requires a ballot issue to contain no more than one subject.

Ricketts opposed

The petition drive faces major pushback from Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), who maintains that legalizing medical marijuana is the first step toward legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Ricketts appeared in a commercial financed by a group opposing the effort, SAM Nebraska, which is an affiliate of a national group called Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

While Ricketts maintains that cannabis has no medicinal value, dozens of Nebraskans have testified at the Capitol about its benefits in treating chronic pain and seizure disorders.

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, in its email, said it has collected about 15,000 signatures so far in its attempt to qualify for the 2022 general election ballot. It needs to collect about 87,000 signatures.

The email said that with 100 days left until the deadline to submit its signatures, this is “another all-hands-on-deck moment,” like in 2020, when the campaign pushed through the pandemic to qualify for the ballot.

The major funders that emerged in 2020 to finance the petition drive were: Mai Oil, Dallas, Texas, $335,500; Kingfish Investments; Abell, Md., $262,000; Harper Enterprises, Omaha, $89,000; and Sozo Companies of Warren, Mich., $50,000.

This article originally appeared in The Nebraska Examiner.

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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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