Nebraska State Senators File Initiative to Legalize Medical Marijuana

The politically diverse coalition is tired of lawmakers’ foot-dragging, so they’re turning to voters for change.
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Two state senators tired of their peers’ inaction on the issue have announced the creation of a 2020 ballot measure campaign to put the future of medical pot in the hands of Nebraskan voters. Lincoln’s Anna Wishart and Adam Morfeld submitted the paperwork to establish campaign committee Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws on Thursday morning. The measure will look to create a constitutional amendment that would ensure the right to medical cannabis, a feat that’s proven difficult to accomplish previously in the state’s legislature.

“Today is the first step towards establishing a compassionate medical marijuana law for sick and suffering Nebraskans,” said Senator Wishart. “Thirty-two states have already adopted effective medical marijuana laws, and Nebraska will soon be joining their ranks.”

Early supporters include the Marijuana Policy Project, which helped to fund victories for similar measures in Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, and Utah. The senators’ efforts are also backed by a politically diverse coalition. The measure’s campaign committee includes registered independents, Republicans, and Democrats.

Marijuana Policy Project deputy director Matthew Schweich is also on the campaign committee.  “Medical marijuana is a bipartisan issue that enjoys strong support across the country, including in conservative states like Nebraska,” he said. “We are confident this campaign will be successful at the ballot box in 2020.”

This is far from Senators Wishart and Morfeld’s first gambit to legalize cannabis in their state. Wishart has raised the issue in every one of the last few legislative sessions. In March of 2017, she threw her weight behind Legislative Bill 622, which would have opened the option of medical cannabis to 19 different health conditions and any situation in which a practitioner thought their patient could benefit from the drug’s consumption. The bill found support even among the state’s veterans, but ultimately failed to gain its footing with lawmakers.

For his part, Senator Morfeld was a leading voice in the campaign to pass 2018’s Medicaid expansion ballot initiative. On Thursday, he framed the cannabis issue as one of patient rights. ”Patients cannot wait any longer, and it’s now time for Nebraska voters to decide this issue,” he said.

The state’s posture on cannabis, as in the rest of the country, may have undergone imperceptible shifts over the last few years. Back in 2014, Nebraska government went so far as to join with Oklahoma in filing a Supreme Court case against Colorado when it legalized marijuana. The neighbors feared that cannabis would soon be flowing over state lines.

Voter-reliant ballot measure campaigns have proven to be a winning strategy for advocates of cannabis legalization. This November alone, four states posed a cannabis legalization question to residents, three of which ended up being successful in Michigan, Missouri, and Utah.

Next steps for Wishart and Morfeld’s Nebraskan initiative include forming a potent steering committee. Wishers said that this group would include, “potential medical marijuana patients and their families, public safety and criminal justice reform advocates, business leaders and others.” Those looking to support the new effort are encouraged to link with the campaign on social media.

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