An advocacy group took a crucial procedural step on Wednesday toward eventually getting a pair of medical marijuana proposals before Nebraska voters on next year’s ballot.
The group Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana said that it has “recently filed drafts of the measures with the Nebraska Secretary of State and expects to begin circulating petitions later this month.”
It intends “to qualify a pair of initiatives ahead of the November election next year by gathering roughly 250,000 signatures across the state before the July 7, 2022 deadline.” The petitions are expected to be approved by the state of Nebraska for circulation later this month.
According to the Lincoln Journal Star, the first initiative would “require the Legislature to enact new statutes protecting doctors who recommend and patients who possess or use medical cannabis from criminal penalty.”
Under the second proposal, legislators would be required “to pass legislation creating a regulatory framework that protects private entities that produce and supply medical cannabis.”
The group says it plans “to release the full text of both medical cannabis initiatives once the petitions are officially approved for circulation by the state.”
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana is being led by Crista Eggers, who has a six-year-old son, Colton, who is suffering from severe intractable epilepsy.
“We’ve received so much encouragement from individuals all across the state, who support the many patients like our son Colton, who desperately need access to this medicine. No matter what your political background is, we should all agree that criminalizing a medicine that has the potential to alleviate suffering, is both cruel and inhumane,” Eggers said in a press release on Wednesday. “The current policy doesn’t reflect our family values here in Nebraska, and we’re going to change that. We need everyone who believes in compassion for suffering individuals like my son to be part of this movement and help us win in 2022.”
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana says it “has recruited hundreds of volunteers from over 50 counties so far,” and is “working to organize local teams and mobilize supporters to be part of the grassroots signature drive.”
The group has also drawn a legislative booster in state Senator Adam Morfeld.
“It’s heartbreaking and senseless that politicians are standing in the way of families and patients who desperately need safe, legal access to medical cannabis,” Morfeld said in the press release. “But we will not stop fighting for them. We hope that every Nebraskan will stand with us and help our campaign succeed by getting involved and supporting the effort however they can.”
For Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, the new campaign is a shot at redemption after a previous effort fizzled out. Last year, the group rounded up almost 200,000 signatures for a proposal to legalize medical marijuana, but the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the initiative was in violation of a state’s single-subject ballot requirement, which requires that “the general subject of a proposed ballot measure is defined by its primary purpose,” and that in the absence of a unifying purpose, “separate proposals in a ballot measure necessarily present independent and distinct proposals that require a separate vote.”
Lawmakers revived the effort in this year’s legislative session, but it too flamed out.
The legislator who led that effort, state Senator Anna Wishart, said that the coalition went back to the drawing board after those two shortcomings, as it sought consultation from both the Marijuana Policy Project and the ACLU of Nebraska.
In May, Wishart struck an optimistic note, indicating that this campaign was ready to do it right.
“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,” Wishart said. “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.”