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Nebraska Activists Turn In Signatures To Put Medical Marijuana Legalization On The Ballot In November



Nebraska activists have turned in what they hope will be more than enough signatures to put a pair of medical marijuana legalization initiatives on the state’s ballot this November—the third time the campaign has sought to let voters decide on the reform in recent years.

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) said on Wednesday that they have submitted more than 114,000 signatures for each of the proposals. They need 87,000 valid signatures per measure to qualify.

The campaign had prioritized meeting a separate requirement to gather signatures from at least five percent of voters in a minimum of 38 counties across the state, and activists previously said they were successful to that end.

NMM had worked to put medical cannabis on the ballot for two prior election cycles, only to come short due to setbacks such as the loss of critical funding in the last election cycle and intervention by the state Supreme Court in the prior attempt.

“The support behind our movement over the past couple of years has helped keep up the fight for the thousands of Nebraskans seeking the care that medical cannabis can bring them,” NMM said in an email blast to supporters. “We couldn’t have done this without the hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans who showed up, signed our petitions, volunteered, and donated whatever they could to our campaign.”

The first of the two current ballot initiatives from the campaign would require lawmakers to codify protections for doctors who recommend cannabis and patients who purchase and possess it. The patient-focused measure says that its aim is to “enact a statute that makes penalties inapplicable under state and local law for the use, possession, and acquisition of limited quantities of cannabis for medical purposes by a qualified patient with a written recommendation from a health care practitioner, and for a caregiver to assist a qualified patient in these activities.”

The other initiative would create a new a Nebraska Medical Cannabis Commission to provide “necessary registration and regulation of persons that possess, manufacture, distribute, deliver, and dispense cannabis for medical purposes.”

While the campaign has faced setbacks in past election cycles, advocates got an early start on signature gathering this round. In addition to meeting the county-based threshold, activists must generally collect signatures from at least seven percent of registered voters statewide to qualify for the ballot.

Volunteers have been petitioning since last July, about two months after turning in the pair of complementary legalization initiatives to the secretary of state’s office.

Gov. Jim Pillen (R) has already voiced opposition to the reform effort, saying last September that legalization “poses demonstrated harms to our children,” and that medical cannabis should only be accessible if its approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

NMM’s Crista Eggers told Marijuana Moment at the time that the governor’s argument is a “cop out,” and she says the campaign will let voters decide for themselves.

“We can’t stop until we get that done. That’s where we’re at, and that’s how our campaign feels,” she said. “We just keep showing up. And the reason we have to do that is because there is no option.”

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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One of NMM’s earlier campaigns gathered enough signatures for ballot placement in 2020, but the measure was invalidated by the state Supreme Court following a single-subject challenge. Supporters then came up short on signatures for revised petitions in 2022 due in large part to the loss of funding after one of their key donors died in a plane crash.

Nebraska lawmakers, including campaign co-chair Sen. Anna Wishart (D), have also attempted to enact the reform legislatively, but cannabis bills have consistently stalled out in the conservative legislature.

Wishart’s medical cannabis bill received a hearing in the unicameral Judiciary Committee last year, but it did not advance. She attributed the inaction to changes in committee membership. An earlier version of the measure ultimately stalled out in the GOP-controlled legislature amid a filibuster that supporters could not overcome.

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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


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