Cannabis Activists In Arizona And Nebraska Set To File Legalization Petitions

Arizona and Nebraska-based cannabis advocates are trying to give residents a say in cannabis legislation.
Montana Activists Submit Cannabis Legalization Petitions

Activists in Arizona plan to submit petitions this week that would put a proposal to legalize the recreational use of cannabis on the November ballot, while in Nebraska a similar drive to legalize medical marijuana is also winding down. 

In the Grand Canyon State, supporters of the Smart and Safe Arizona Act were planning to submit more than 400,000 signatures to the office of the Secretary of State on Wednesday, far more than the 238,000 needed to qualify the measure for the ballot for this fall’s general election. If passed, the measure would legalize cannabis for use by adults and create a legal framework to regulate and tax commercial marijuana production and sales.

Stacy Pearson, a spokeswoman for the Smart and Safe Arizona campaign, told local media last week that the group was excited about its prospects for success.

“Our signature gathering has gone well,” Pearson said. “We’re in a posi­tion that we’re confident the initiative will qualify.”

Once the petitions have been submitted, the Secretary of State’s office will begin verifying that each signature is from a registered voter. If enough valid signatures are certified by state officials, legalization opponents will have an opportunity to challenge the measure in court in an effort to block it from appearing on the November ballot.

If the Smart and Safe Arizona Act does qualify for the ballot, polling data shows that the measure is likely to be passed by voters in November. In a recent poll conducted by Phoenix lobbying firm Higher Ground, Inc., 65% of Arizonans said they would probably or definitely vote in favor of the measure. Arizona voters legalized the medicinal use of cannabis in 2010.

Nebraskans Campaign For Medical Marijuana

In Nebraska, one of only 11 states without any form of legal medical marijuana, activists are planning to submit signatures for a ballot proposal that would legalize the medicinal use of cannabis in time for a Thursday deadline. To qualify the measure for the ballot, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana must collect at least 121,000 signatures while meeting a minimum threshold in at least 38 of the state’s 93 counties. 

“We are extremely, extremely close,” said Anna Wishart, an organizer with the campaign. “It amazes me we were able to do this during a pandemic and get support from across the state. We’re within a thousand or so signatures of getting this across the finish line.”

To collect the signatures, organizers instituted measures to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, including incorporating social distancing and hygiene protocols and utilizing drive-through signature gathering events. Earlier this month, ADOPT, a coalition of groups supporting access to medical marijuana as a way to reduce state taxes, delivered more than 50,000 signatures it had collected to put the medical marijuana legalization measure on the ballot to the Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana campaign.

“We are proud of our success in gathering tens of thousands of petition signatures in support of letting Nebraska vote on legalizing medical marijuana,” said ADOPT spokesperson Michael J. O’Hara. “Despite the great obstacles of the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing, civil unrest, and curfews, our petition gatherers did a super job. Clearly, the people of Nebraska want to vote on this important health care issue.”

As in Arizona, the Nebraska Secretary of State is now tasked with verifying the signatures collected by the campaign. If enough valid signatures are confirmed, the constitutional amendment proposal to legalize medical marijuana will appear on the November ballot.

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