Advocates, parents ‘beg’ Nebraskans to seek out and sign petition to legalize medical cannabis

Petition drive is 50,000 signatures short facing a July 7 deadline

By: - June 22, 2022 11:34 am
Medical marijuana

Parents of these childen, who suffer from epileptic seizures, pleaded Wednesday for Nebraskans to seek out and sign petitions legalizing medical marijuana. Pictured are, from left, Colton Eggers, Jayen Hochstein and Will Gillen. (Courtesy of Crista Eggers)

LINCOLN — Advocates for legalizing medical marijuana switched Wednesday from urging Nebraskans to sign their petition to begging them as a July 7 deadline looms to submit signatures to qualify for the ballot in November.

In sometimes emotional pleas at a press conference, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana said its all-volunteer signature collection effort will fail unless Nebraskans take the initiative to seek out a place to sign their petition.

“Do it for the suffering people in this state who are pleading with you,” said Crista Eggers of Omaha, as she held up a photograph of her 7-year-old son, Colton, who suffers from up to 100 epileptic seizures a day.

‘We are begging you’

“This will fail if you don’t step up. We are begging you,” said Eggers, who serves as campaign chairman for Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana.

The petition drive has collected about 60,000 signatures for each of its two initiatives but needs another 50,000 signatures per petition by the July 7 deadline to ensure there are enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

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

Each petition will need about 87,000 valid signatures to qualify, according to State Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln, a co-chair of the initiative.

“It’s on Nebraska to go out and find a place to sign,” Wishart said.

Businesses have petitions

More than 100 businesses across the state have petitions, she said, which can be found at nebraskamarijuana.org/sign Her group will also have volunteer signature gathers at upcoming events, including Tuesday’s special election in the 1st Congressional District.

The 2022 petition drive was necessitated after a successful petition effort two years ago was tossed off the ballot. The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the single petition violated the legal requirement that such petitions contain only a single subject. This year, the initiative is passing two petitions to address that issue.

Thirty-seven states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have legalized cannabis for medical use by qualified individuals, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Ten other states have allowed the use of low-THC, high cannabidiol (CBD) products as medicine.

Could prevent surgery

One parent, Nicole Hochstein of Papillion, said allowing her 12-year-old son, Jayen, the opportunity to try a cannabis oil to quell his seizures could prevent him from undergoing an invasive brain surgery that will require him to re-learn how to walk and talk.

“If he was in one of 47 other states he could try an oil, underneath his tongue,” Hochstein said. “We have been pleading for help in this state far too long.”

Another parent, Dominic Gillen of Bellevue, said he has been seeking legalization of medical cannabis for 10 years. Sitting next to him, moaning, was his 20-year-old son, Will, who suffers from multiple seizures every day.

“He’s telling you in his own way to please go sign,” the elder Gillen said, his voice breaking.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (Rebecca S. Gratz for the Nebraska Examiner)

Opposed by governor, SAM

Gov. Pete Ricketts and the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana Nebraska have opposed legalization of medical marijuana, saying it is not FDA-approved and needs to undergo medical studies. Ricketts has said it is a step toward legalization of recreational marijuana, which he maintains has increased drug problems among children in other states.

Eggers said she also supports FDA approval of medical cannabis but said the process is moving much too slowly. Her son has not responded to the legal medications available in Nebraska, she said, and meanwhile, Colton and other children are suffering.

“We don’t know if (medical cannabis) will help him or not,” Eggers said. But she said it has provided some relief and improvement in the quality of life for others.

We want the chance,” she said.

 

 

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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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