Drivers passing through one of Omaha’s busiest intersections over the lunch hour Tuesday likely noticed the demonstrators. A handful of people held up signs at 72nd & Dodge, urging marijuana be legalized.
It comes as Californians begin early voting on Proposition 19. “It’s getting very good support so far,” said Melanie Marshall of Bellevue, who organized the effort on behalf of the Women’s Marijuana Movement.
“And what (the proposition) will allow is that cities will get to choose whether or not they want to allow and tax cannabis.”
Marshall yelled out as cars honked, “So many people know the truth!" The truth, she said, is that using marijuana is more sensible than alcohol.
"People choose to drink sometimes because cannabis is illegal. But as we know, alcohol can contribute to violence and cause people to do horrible things, and cannabis just does not have those properties."
Only three others joined her in her afternoon campaign, including James, who did not want to give his last name due to the “stigma” surrounding pot.
He’s hoping the proposition passes and sets a precedent. "It's a domino effect with all states, especially when they started the first medical marijuana."
Neither Nebraska nor Iowa have seen any legislation considering the legalization of marijuana. However, Iowa lawmakers are expected to take up the issue in the next session after a unanimous recommendation by the Iowa Board of Pharmacy.
"There's a lot of dying people that are hurting," said James.
The messages held by James and the rest of the group rang loud and clear for some drivers, with many honks and hoots of support.
But the reaction away from the traffic, down the street at Elmwood Park, was not quite as enthusiastic. "I think medical marijuana should be legalized,” said Adria Hotchkiss of Omaha. “But I don't think all across the board it should be legalized."
Hotchkiss’s son, nine month old Emory, weighs heavily on her opinion. "Before I had children, I may have thought differently about legalization. But now that I have a son and I think about him doing things like that, I don't want him to."
Neither does local law enforcement. It’s a gateway drug, Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Cindy Christiansen said. “It leads to other more harmful dangerous and deadly drugs."
She just talked about the topic with 5th graders at St. Wenceslaus School in Omaha before the proponents’ rally got underway. It’s part of on-going D.A.R.E. education within some schools. The dangers, she said, include “loss of coordination, reflexes, short-term memory, judging distances and time especially. School work, not being able to concentrate."
However, those in favor of legalizing marijuana contend law enforcement spends too much time on marijuana busts, contributing to overcrowding in prisons.
Californians will hit the polls to decide the issue November 2nd. Several polls claim Proposition 19 has the support needed to pass.