Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, an organization formed by a state lawmaker in Nebraska, is optimistic that the third time will be the charm and that medical cannabis will be legalized in the state.
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) turned in two petitions to the secretary of state's office on Thursday in an effort to start the 2024 election process as Sen. Anna Wishart's (D) reform measure remains stuck in committee.
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana's Third Attempt
In Nebraska, proponents of the drug are attempting a third time to have voters decide the matter. They gathered sufficient signatures to get it on the 2020 ballot, but the state Supreme Court disqualified the proposal because of a legal issue with its single subject. They also failed to gather the necessary number of signatures for updated petitions in 2022 as a result of a large loss of essential money.
Co-chair of the NMM campaign, Crista Eggers, stated in a news release the need to consistently petition the government. She emphasized the Legislature's defiance in the face of tremendous support from more than 80% of Nebraskans across political lines, geographic regions, and age brackets.
"We have consistently come up empty-handed after more than ten years of advocating, educating, and attempting to follow the right channels through our elected leaders in the Unicameral," Eggers said. "As a result, we will once more turn to voting as our means of advancement."
Regarding the newly submitted petitions, Senator Wishart confirmed that the language remains the same as in 2022. She mentioned that the Secretary of State's office would legally review the petitions.
Renewed Efforts and Revised Petitions for 2024 Ballot
The senator's proposed legislation on medical cannabis underwent a hearing in the Judiciary Committee of the unicameral legislature in February but has not made any progress. She attributes the lack of action to changes in membership and turnover within the committee. A previous bill version faced a filibuster in the Republican-controlled legislature, ultimately leading to its stagnation.
Regarding the 2024 ballot effort, Wishart expressed determination, stating that they would file again. She believes perseverance is vital to success; every setback they encounter only strengthens their resolve.
Wishart also highlighted their experience from the previous year, where they realized they didn't have to rely solely on a major donor for success. She expressed optimism about their achievements with over a year of collection time. They gathered 180,000 signatures in just three months through a volunteer-led effort with limited resources.
One of the initiatives submitted by the campaign on Thursday aims to ensure legal protection for doctors who recommend cannabis and patients who use and possess it. The initiative focuses on patients and seeks to establish a state statute that exempts them from penalties under state and local law when they possess limited quantities of cannabis for medical purposes with a written recommendation from a healthcare practitioner. Additionally, it allows caregivers to assist qualified patients in these activities.
The second measure proposes the creation of the Nebraska Medical Cannabis Commission, which would be responsible for registering and regulating individuals involved in the possession, manufacturing, distribution, delivery, and dispensing of medical cannabis.
To prevent potential legal obstacles similar to the single-subject challenge that hindered the previous reform effort in 2020, the complementary proposals have been carefully designed to maintain a narrow focus. The aim is to ensure that each initiative addresses a specific subject matter, minimizing the chances of derailment.
Despite the disappointment caused by the Nebraska Supreme Court's ruling on the single subject issue in 2020, Adam Morfeld, co-chair of NMM and a former Nebraska senator, emphasized that the ruling provided valuable guidance for refiling a new initiative. After thoroughly examining the court's decision, the campaign has developed two new statutory initiatives that they are confident will meet constitutional requirements.
To secure a spot on the November 2024 ballot, the campaign needs to gather approximately 87,000 valid signatures for each petition and submit them by July 5, 2024. Activists have announced their plan to commence a signature drive at the beginning of June.
Following the setback faced in 2022 regarding medical cannabis, there were initial considerations of pursuing an adult-use legalization initiative. However, the current focus of the strategy seems to be solely on medical marijuana.
Lessons Learned and Ongoing Challenges
There are just three states without a medical cannabis program, including Nebraska. However, the National Conference of State Legislators claims that some states have low-THC programs.
State Senator Anna Wishart speculated that there might have been an error the first time.
She said, "they sold themselves short when we thought we had to wait for a major donor. They fell short by less than 10,000 signatures on the two petitions last year. We accomplished that with volunteers in three months. Imagine what we can achieve in a year and a half.
In 38 of Nebraska's 93 counties, petitioners must also collect the signatures of 5% of the registered voters. They attempted to sue over that in the past but were unsuccessful.
Support from Medical Professionals and Patient Advocacy Groups
As a potential treatment for several medical problems, medical marijuana is receiving more and more support from physicians and other healthcare professionals. Medical professionals and patient advocacy organizations have significantly contributed to Nebraska's current medical cannabis petition campaign. The campaign has received strong support from organizations like the Nebraska Medical Association and regional patient advocacy groups, who have highlighted the potential advantages of cannabis-based medicines for treating patients' pain and enhancing their quality of life. Their backing gives the petition more authority and informs the public about medical cannabis's therapeutic potential.
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana improves their argument for legalization by working with healthcare providers and patient advocacy organizations, highlighting the medical necessity and beneficial effects on patients' lives. These professionals' engagement strengthens the campaign's legitimacy and gives it a powerful voice in promoting compassionate and fact-based healthcare solutions.
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana is on its third attempt to legalize medical cannabis in Nebraska. Despite previous obstacles, the organization remains optimistic and determined in its pursuit. Supported by medical professionals, patient advocacy groups, and a dedicated team of volunteers, they aim to gather the required signatures to secure a place on the 2024 ballot. The proposed initiatives focus on safeguarding doctors and patients and establishing regulations for the medical cannabis industry. While challenges persist, the campaign draws inspiration from past experiences and the unwavering belief in the power of public support. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana continues to advocate for the advancement of medical cannabis, fueling hope for its legalization in Nebraska.