Medical marijuana group calls for ‘all hands on deck’ after loss of major donor

Initiative switches to ‘grassroots’ effort, needs to collect about 87,000 valid signatures on two petitions by July 7

By: - May 6, 2022 2:54 pm
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana campaign logo (Courtesy of Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana

LINCOLN — Unable to raise $1 million to replace funds from a major donor who died, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana issued a plea Friday for supporters of the cause to take up petitions and gather signatures.

State Sens. Anna Wishart and Adam Morfeld said that without funds to hire paid petition circulators — the traditional route for initiative petition drives — volunteers will have to step up in a totally grassroots, “untraditional” effort. 

“This is going to require all hands on deck,” Morfeld said.

Sen. wishart
State Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln
(Courtesy of Unicameral Information Office)

“We have to totally flip the script,” said Wishart. 

July 7 deadline

The medical marijuana effort needs to collect about 87,000 valid signatures of voters statewide by a July 7 deadline, as well as signatures of at least 5% of registered voters in 38 of the state’s 93 counties.

Crista Eggers, the statewide coordinator for the initiative, said the effort has gathered about 25,000 signatures for each of its two petitions so far but needs another 100,000 for each to provide enough cushion to offset some signatures that may be invalidated. She said the group has 500 volunteers, thus far, who are distributing petitions.

Two years ago, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana collected more than enough signatures to qualify for the 2020 ballot using paid circulators. But the Nebraska Supreme Court disqualified the initiative, saying the petition violated the state’s “single-subject” rule for such ballot issues. That led the legalization group to pass two petitions this year.

80% support for issue

Wishart said she thinks an all-grassroots effort can succeed because the medical marijuana group’s polling indicates 80% support for legalizing medical cannabis in the state.

She called the support “unprecedented” given the political divides in the U.S. now.

State Sen. Adam Morfeld
State Sen Adam Morfeld of Lincoln
(Courtesy of Unicameral Information Office)

In a video news conference with reporters Friday, Wishart, Morfeld and Eggers, who has a son with severe epilepsy, laid out the strategy for gathering enough signatures by the July 7 deadline. They ask supporters to:

  • Go to one of the 100 businesses across Nebraska that are gathering signatures and sign the petitions. A list can be found on the website: Nebraskamarijuana.org
  • Gather small donations from Nebraskans, on a recurring basis. If enough donations come in, organizers said that some paid circulators will be hired.
  • Sign up to commit to gather 50 signatures by June 1.
  • “Adopt a county” to gather the required signatures there. Wishart said she and a girlfriend gathered the 300 signatures needed in Hamilton County in 2020.
  • Gather signatures at events, such as the College World Series, local farmers markets and concerts.
  • Consider hosting a drive-through signature drive.

Wishart said those fighting to legalize cannabis for medical use have “gone too far” to give up, given the loss of financial backing.

As of February, 37 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical uses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.

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