Nebraska is currently working on petitions that could legalize medical cannabis.
Following the failure of an initiative to legalize medical cannabis in Nebraska in 2020, advocates immediately set to work on not one but two new initiatives for the 2022 election year.
The advocacy group called Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana held a brief campaign update on August 4 on Facebook asking for volunteers to contribute their time, money or talents to the cause.
“We are getting very close to having a petition and language ready to file. Our legal team has spent countless hours on this absolutely crucial process to make sure we’re addressing any vulnerabilities in our wording that the opposition may, and probably will, go after,” said Crista, a statewide campaign coordinator, said in the update.
According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana will be pursuing a one-sentence addition to the state constitution, which would be more broad than their previous attempt. “Persons in the State of Nebraska shall have the right to cannabis in all its forms for medical purposes,” the petition currently states.
Nebraska Hopes for Better Luck this Year
In 2020, a court ruled that the Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana’s single initiative violated the single-subject rule. “Under the single-subject ballot requirement, the general subject of a proposed ballot measure is defined by its primary purpose. Without a unifying purpose, separate proposals in a ballot measure necessarily present independent and distinct proposals that require a separate vote.” the Nebraska State Constitution Article III-2 states.
At the end of the 2021 legislative session, a medical cannabis bill that was co-sponsored by Senator Anna Wishart was also struck down. Wishart said that she had help from the Marijuana Policy Project and the ACLU of Nebraska to help identify “every possible challenge” that the petition might face.
Now with the arrival of these two initiatives, Wishart and advocates alike are working together, hoping that they can avoid issues with the single-subject rule while supporting two initiatives that will “work in unison,” Wishart described.
The first initiative states that the legislature must protect doctors who choose to recommend medical cannabis, as well as patients from being convicted for possession or consumption. The second initiative drives attention to protecting companies that produce medical cannabis products. “I think we really heard what they said from our last initiative,” said Wishart. “That’s why we’re transitioning away from the previous ballot initiative we’ve filed.”
The reason that the push for medical cannabis was split into two different initiatives is because of a gambling constitutional amendment that was proposed in 2014. It was struck down due to a rule that prevents multiple issues from being mentioned in a single initiative. So, supporters set up three separate petitions (Initiative 429, 430 and 431) instead, each of which passed.
Wishart told the Lincoln Journal Star that they plan to follow that same strategy, but it won’t be an easy journey. “It’s too much of a risk to not err on the extremely safe side, even if it’s more expensive,” she said. “There’s no room for error.”
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana and Wishart hope to file the language for their two initiatives prior to September 6, 2021. In the meantime, the effort is working on building up a team of 125 signature collector volunteers. In 2020, they collected 196,000 signatures for the single initiative, with 123,000 collected during the month of June alone. “We have people who are not only more excited to work on this than they were before but who have recruited a team of volunteers to help them,” Wishart added. “As long as the language is good, which is what we’re working on now, we’re going to be successful.”
Wishart stated in a May press release that she’s confident they’re on the right track this year. “It was true last year and it remains true today that the vast majority of Nebraskans are on our side when it comes to this issue. Voters were unfairly denied the opportunity to enact reform last year, but this time, we’re ready for any legal challenge, and we will succeed.”