Nebraska medical marijuana supporters to try, try again

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Medical Marijuana Petition

A volunteer in Omaha collects signatures in June for a petition to place a medical marijuana measure on the Nebraska 2020 ballot. The measure was certified by the Secretary of State’s Office but removed by the Nebraska Supreme Court on constitutional grounds.

Whether by legislation or by initiative petition, supporters of the legalization of medical marijuana in Nebraska will try again in the next two years.

They will also partner with other advocacy groups to develop a medical marijuana scorecard so Nebraskans know where candidates and elected officials stand on the issue, and Sen. Anna Wishart plans to introduce a bill in the next session to put before the Legislature.

The group Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana collected 110% of required signatures — 182,000 — for the initiative, in spite of the COVID-19 pause in signature gathering. But Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner challenged Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen’s decision to put the issue on the ballot, arguing the question was confusing and created voter doubt, and that it violated the single subject requirement of a constitutional question.

The Nebraska Supreme Court said in a 5-2 ruling the ballot issue violated the single subject rule because its general subject and various other provisions lacked natural and necessary connection with each other. It determined, in fact, the proposal had eight subjects.

Nebraska Supreme Court bars medical marijuana question from November ballot

“With their ruling, the court has made less clear an already confusing single subject legal standard,” said Sen. Adam Morfeld, co-chairman of Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana. “We are left with the conclusion that if you do propose an initiative, it must be simple and broad and have no limitations, even if they are natural and necessary to the single subject.”

He said they will take that into account when looking into drafting new language.

Wishart said anyone who thinks they would give up on the issue doesn’t understand why they fought so hard to legalize medical cannabis in the first place.

Nebraska judges question medical marijuana petition

“Our home is Nebraska, and we are here to stay and advocate for parents and families who are watching their loved ones needlessly suffer,” she said. “We will not rest until Nebraska enacts a compassionate medical cannabis law that provides relief to the people who desperately need it.”

The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote this month on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 (H.R. 3884), according to the National Law Review. The bill, among other things, would remove cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance and, in turn, essentially decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.

Five states are expected to vote on marijuana initiatives in November. 

Arizona’s Proposition 207 would legalize possession and recreational use of marijuana by adults age 21 and older. Mississippi has two constitutional amendments for medical cannabis; a citizen initiative and one referred to the ballot by the Legislature. Montana has a statutory initiative and a constitutional initiative that would legalize the possession and recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 and older. 

New Jersey would amend its constitution to legalize the possession and recreational use of marijuana for adults. And South Dakota’s initiative would legalize medical cannabis. 

Medical marijuana proponents say they’ve met ballot requirements

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature

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