Nebraska medical marijuana measure likely to make ballot

Nebraska voters will likely get the chance to vote on a measure to legalize medical marijuana, based on the number of petition signatures that campaign organizers will submit to state officials on Thursday.
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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska voters will likely get the chance to vote on a measure to legalize medical marijuana, based on the number of petition signatures that campaign organizers will submit to state officials on Thursday.

Organizers of the Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana campaign said they’ve gathered 182,000 signatures from all 93 counties to allow the drug for medicinal use.

To qualify for the ballot, the campaign needed to turn in more than 121,000 valid signatures, representing more than 10% of the voters in the state. Campaign officials also needed to collect signatures from at least 5% of voters in at least 38 Nebraska counties.

“Today represents a huge step forward for thousands of Nebraskans who deserve compassion,” said state Sen. Anna Wishart, of Lincoln, who co-chaired the campaign committee. “We are confident that we’ve met the requirements for ballot qualification, and after seeing the outpouring of support for our petition, we’re even more confident that Nebraska’s voters will approve this initiative in November.”

Supporters of medical marijuana launched the campaign after Nebraska lawmakers repeatedly rejected similar measures to legalize and regulate the drug for people with medical conditions. Campaign officials gathered far more signatures than they needed because some are likely to be declared invalid.

Barry Rubin, a consultant who led the signature-gathering effort, said the petition campaign was a “herculean effort” because the campaign was hindered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic forced the cancellation of large public gatherings and forced several ballot campaigns to temporarily halt their efforts. One petition drive that sought to lower property taxes suspended its campaign in April, blaming the pandemic.

Some leading conservatives in the state, including Gov. Pete Ricketts and former University of Nebraska athletics director Tom Osborne, have voiced strong opposition to legalizing marijuana for medicinal use before federal regulators have approved it.

A separate campaign to legalize casino gambling at Nebraska horse-racing tracks is also expected to present signatures to state officials Thursday to place that issue on the ballot.

The pro-casino group, Keep the Money in Nebraska, has scheduled an 11 a.m. news conference at the Capitol to discuss its effort. The campaign was backed by Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, and the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, a horse-racing advocacy group.

All of the petitions will go to the Nebraska secretary of state’s office, which will validate signatures and confirm which petition drives have qualified for the ballot. That announcement is expected in mid-August.

Categories: Nebraska News, News