Medical cannabis group taking another run at ballot initiative

The most recent filing is the third attempt by Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana to legalize.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 1:08 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana is hoping the third time is the charm leading to legalization of medical cannabis in the state.

Crista Eggers with the organization is hopeful her son with epilepsy will soon get the treatment he needs.

“Because we live in Nebraska it’s not an option for me or thousands of patients that desperately need this as an option,” Eggers said.

Crista’s 8-yer-old son, Colton, has suffered from epileptic seizures since he was 2-years-old. They’ve tried many medications, but none have worked.

For the last several years, she’s tried to get lawmakers to allow people like her son to be treated with cannabis.

“We have not been successful in getting any type of legislation passed in the state over cannabis so the decision was made for us to not give up on this,” Eggers said.

NMM once again filed a ballot initiative with the Secretary of State on Thursday in hopes of putting the issue in front of voters next fall. Organizers say they plan to begin a signature drive in earnest next month, noting that it takes about three weeks from the filing before petitions can be printed.

Two petitions will be circulated: one would be about setting up the doctor-patient system, and another would cover regulation of the industry.

NMM will be working to collect about 87,000 valid signatures per petition in order to put the issue onto the Nov. 5, 2024, ballot. Those signatures are due to the state by July 5, 2024.

State Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln again proposed a bill on medical cannabis this session — which several senators signed onto — but the bill died in committee. Wishart spoke about the issue on the Legislature floor on Thursday morning.

State Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln proposed a bill on medical cannabis this session, which several senators signed onto, but the bill died in committee.

Legalizing medical marijuana has appeared in front of lawmakers several times, and Wishart has been a driving force for those bills. But it’s also previously been met with strong opposition from the governor’s office. Wishart’s filing on medical cannabis in 2021 sparked stark comments from Gov. Pete Ricketts.

In 2022, the bill fell flat after the resignation of State Sen. Mike Groene, in spite of Wishart’s efforts to keep it alive.

Petitions for this issue have also had a rough go. The matter went all the way to the Nebraska Supreme Court in 2020, where the court ruled against putting the issue before voters.

“Despite the disappointing 2020 single subject ruling by the Nebraska Supreme Court, it provided us a clear roadmap and clarity to refile a new initiative,” said Adam Morfeld, NMM Co-Chair and attorney in the organization’s news release. “After close review of that decision, we have crafted two new statutory initiatives that we are confident will pass constitutional muster.”

NMM didn’t hit the signature goal last year, falling about 900 signatures short and getting hung up on the 5% requirement for each of Nebraska’s 93 counties.

That drive also suffered a “significant setback” after a major donor behind the campaign died in a plane crash and another received a terminal diagnosis.