Marijuana reform activists in Nebraska are attempting to legalize medical cannabis in the state through the ballot process for the third time.
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) handed two petitions into the secretary of state’s office to officially launch the signature-gathering process which, if successful, would ensure that a medical marijuana legalization question would appear on the state’s 2024 ballot.
NMM’s first effort in 2020 garnered the required number of voter signatures but a state Supreme Court ruling determined that the proposal invalidated a single subject rule for ballot initiatives. In 2022, NMM tried again with a proposal containing amended language but it came up short on the required number of signatures largely due to a significant loss of campaign funding.
“We have no choice but to keep petitioning our government,” said Crista Eggers, co-chair of NMM. “The Legislature refuses to act despite the will of over 80 percent of Nebraskans (from all parties, regions, ages, etc) supporting this.”
“For over 10 years we’ve advocated, educated and fought, trying to do it the right way, though our elected leaders in the Unicameral, and every year we come up empty handed,” she said. “So we will go to the ballot once again.”
Eggers further indicated that the language of the 2024 ballot proposal will be much the same as that in 2022.
Meanwhile, Sen. Anna Wishart filed a medical cannabis legalization bill to the Senate in February. Her proposal received a hearing in the Judiciary Committee but has yet to advance. She puts this down to multiple changes in membership of the committee although an earlier version of her bill also stalled in the GOP-controlled legislature.
The first petition submitted by NMM would compel lawmakers to ensure protections in law for physicians that recommend marijuana as a therapeutic treatment, and for patients who then purchase and possess it. The purpose of this petition, in the words of NMM, 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.”
To avoid contravening the state’s single subject rule for ballot initiatives, the second petition is concerned with the creation of a Nebraska Medical Cannabis Commission charged with providing the “necessary registration and regulation of persons that possess, manufacture, distribute, deliver, and dispense cannabis for medical purposes.”
To qualify for the November 2024 ballot, NMM must collect 87,00 signatures of registered voters for each of the petitions by July 5, 2024.