Activists in Nebraska this week unveiled a new strategy in their efforts to legalize medical marijuana through the ballot box next year, announcing that they will seek to qualify a pair of complementary initiatives to present to voters.
The forked approach is an effort to avoid going against the state’s one-issue rule for citizens’ initiatives, a policy that led the state’s Supreme Court last year to strike down a medical cannabis legalization measure that qualified for the 2020 general election.
A separate effort by the legislature this session was stalled when supporters failed to muster enough votes to overcome a GOP-led obstruction.
In the aftermath, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana said in June that the group was drafting multiple complementary voting initiatives in addition to an extremely short constitutional amendment that would simply state that people “in the state of Nebraska will be entitled to cannabis under all its forms. for medical purposes.
But the band now recount the Lincoln Journal Star, he will ditch that clean language in favor of two separate statutory initiatives that would “work in unison”: demanding lawmakers pass legislation allowing private companies to produce and sell marijuana products. for medical purposes.
State Senator Anna Wishart (D), who also co-chairs Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, told the newspaper the two-pronged approach was designed to withstand legal challenges.
“Our main goal is to put in place a language in which we feel absolutely confident,” said Wishart, “that we have looked at all types of potential challenges that might arise and we believe we have solved them.”
The senator also introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state legislature, but opponents defeated it. Wishart and Sen. Adam Morfeld (D) announced in December that they would also work to pose the question of legalizing adult marijuana to voters in 2022. It is not clear whether a recreational measure is still in the works. or not.
The Nebraska attorney general said in a 2019 notice that efforts to legalize medical marijuana in the state would be preempted by federal law and “would, therefore, be unconstitutional.”
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana worked on the new petitions with the help of advocates from the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the ACLU of Nebraska and other organizations, Wishart told the Journal Star.
Jared Moffat, campaign manager for MPP, told Marijuana Moment in an email Monday that the new language is now under careful consideration “and opponents will have a much harder time keeping it out of the ballot in 2022”.
“Opponents of cannabis policy reform are realizing that it is almost impossible for them to win at the polls,” he said. “As a result, we are seeing more and more attempts to overthrow the will of the people through legal niceties and direct attacks on the initiative process itself. Nebraskan patients learned it the hard way last year, but families and patients fighting for medical cannabis in the state aren’t just going to give up when the lives of their loved ones are on the line. ”
Crista Eggers, director of the Nebraskans’ signature campaign for medical marijuana, told Marijuana Moment in June that the plan was to “fill up in mass” from this summer to collect signatures to qualify the short measure. constitutional announcement previously announced. These efforts will now likely be devoted to the new two-pronged legislative effort.
“This time around we absolutely make sure that everything is very solid and that there are no holes in anything and nothing that the opposition can use in the future to try to turn things around,” Eggers said.
As part of the medical cannabis initiative that was blocked in Nebraska last year, doctors could have recommended cannabis to patients with debilitating medical conditions, and those patients would then have been allowed to own, buy and cultivate “quietly”. marijuana for their personal use.
The text of the two new proposals for 2022 is still being finalized.
In a Facebook chat with activists last week, Eggers said the team was “very close to having the language of the petition ready to be filed” and that lawyers were checking the arrangements to ensure that the opposition had no vulnerabilities to exploit.
“We can’t take any shortcuts,” she said.
When Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana qualified that measure for the ballot – to be thwarted by the court – they submitted nearly 200,000 signatures. Eggers said there was enduring frustration among voters, including those who may not have been particularly passionate about the issue itself, that the court unilaterally barred them from acting on the proposal.
She also noted that ongoing reform efforts in neighboring states will serve the campaign by building regional momentum and pressure.
Even if campaigners collect enough petitions to qualify one of the measures, they should still face a challenge at the polls. Midterms tend to have lower turnout than in presidential election years, and those who vote in slack years have traditionally been less supportive of cannabis reform.
By 2022, Nebraska isn’t the only state where voters might see cannabis reform on the ballot.
Oklahoma advocates are preparing two complementary voting initiatives, one that would legalize cannabis for adult use and one that would bring changes to the state’s massive medical marijuana system.
Meanwhile, two Wyoming reform initiatives – one to decriminalize possession of marijuana and another to legalize medical cannabis – recently passed a first hurdle on their way to qualifying for that state’s 2022 poll.
Idaho officials recently allowed activists to start collecting signatures for a revised initiative to legalize possession of marijuana that they hope to present to voters in the 2022 poll. also to qualify a separate measure to legalize medical cannabis for access to ballots.
In South Dakota, activists last month tabled four separate cannabis voting measures for 2022.
Campaigners in North Dakota are developing plans for a marijuana legalization measure after lawmakers failed to pass reform this session.
A Missouri marijuana activist group recently tabled several separate initiatives to put marijuana reform on the state ballot in 2022, a move that comes as other advocacy groups prepare additional efforts to collect signatures for their own cannabis petitions. Meanwhile, other activists are focused on passing the legislature on a resolution to bring the issue of legalization to voters next year.
Activists in Arkansas are currently collecting signatures for a marijuana legalization measure they want to submit to voters next November.
In Maryland, the Speaker of the House has pledged to pass legislation to hold a referendum on the legalization of marijuana in the 2022 poll.
Activists in Ohio are awaiting official approval to collect signatures for a statewide voting measure that would effectively force the legislature to consider cannabis reform. Meanwhile, other groups have also recently qualified several measures to decriminalize cannabis to appear on local 2021 ballots.
A newly formed Texas progressive group unveiled a campaign last month to put forward an initiative to decriminalize marijuana possession and outlaw strike warrants in the November poll in Austin.
Advocates are also working to put marijuana initiatives on local ballots in South Carolina and West Virginia.
Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court has blocked two cannabis legalization initiatives for which activists had already collected thousands of signatures.
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Photo courtesy of Philippe Steffan.