Tragic Death of Top Donor Leaves Nebraska Medical Cannabis Campaign in Limbo

In spite of a “huge setback,” the group Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana is still determined to hit its $500,000 fundraising goal by May 1.

Tragedy has left a campaign to legalize medical cannabis in Nebraska scrambling for new donors, as the group aims to get a pair of proposals on the state ballot this year.

The Omaha World Herald reported this week that the group “Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana lost two individuals who were expected to make a major contribution to the current legalization campaign.”

One donor who made contributions to the group’s previous failed bid to get a medical cannabis proposal on the 2020 ballot died in a plane crash, Democratic state Sen. Anna Wishart, a co-sponsor of Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, told the newspaper.

Another individual who was expected to contribute to the group this year was diagnosed with terminal cancer, according to the Omaha World Herald, which said that Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana notified supporters of the “huge setback” in an email on Wednesday.

The World Herald reported that, despite the loss of two key donors, “Wishart was still confident the group could meet its $500,000 fundraising goal by May 1,” although she “declined to say how much the campaign has raised so far.”

According to the newspaper, “the campaign had a cash balance that was less than $30,000” as of a month ago.

The group announced in September that it had “recently filed drafts of the measures with the Nebraska Secretary of State and expects to begin circulating petitions later this month” for two separate medical cannabis proposals to make it onto the Cornhusker State ballot this year.

Under the first initiative, the Nebraska legislature would be required to enact new laws that would enshrine protections for physicians in the state who recommend medical cannabis treatment, as well as the patients who use it, from criminal prosecution.

The second proposal would require lawmakers in the state to to pass a bill establishing the regulatory framework for medical cannabis suppliers.

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana is being led by Crista Eggers, whose six-year-old son has severe intractable epilepsy.

Eggers said in an announcement in September that patients like her son Colton, “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 at the time. “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.”

According to the Omaha World Herald, “each petition would need nearly 87,000 signatures” by the July 7, 2022 deadline in order to qualify for the ballot.

The newspaper reported that “Wishart believes each petition has about 25,000 signatures so far, and said signature gathering is one of the main reasons why donations are so crucial to these campaigns.”

Absent additional funding, “Wishart said it would not be impossible for the campaign to succeed, but it would be extraordinary,” according to the World Herald.

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana tried to get a proposal on the 2020 ballot in the state, but after gathering almost 200,000 signatures, the group was stymied by the Nebraska Supreme Court, which ruled that the initiative violated state rules and was ineligible for the ballot.

At the time of the announcement in September, Wishart struck an optimistic note, saying this time around would be different.

“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.”

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