Medical marijuana advocates file petition to place issue on 2024 ballot

By: - May 18, 2023 9:04 am
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana

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

LINCOLN — Advocates for medical marijuana announced plans Thursday to mount an initiative petition drive to place the issue on the 2024 ballot.

The group, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, filed papers Thursday with the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office.

Crista Eggers, who is a spokeswoman for the advocates and whose son struggles with frequent seizures, said the effort is starting earlier in hopes of gathering the more than 100,000 signatures required.

“We have no choice but to keep petitioning our government,” Eggers said. “The Legislature refuses to act despite the will of over 80% of Nebraskans, from all parties, regions, ages, etc., supporting this.”

Ran out of money last year

Last year, a petition drive failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the 2022 ballot amid financial problems that blocked hiring professional petition circulators.

Currently, 38 states, three territories and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of cannabis products, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Over the past eight years, advocates in Nebraska have come close but have failed to get the state to join them.

Tossed off ballot by court

In 2020, a medical marijuana ballot initiative qualified for the ballot but then was tossed off when the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that it violated the state’s “single subject” rule for such initiatives.

In 2021, a bill in the Legislature to legalize marijuana for medical use came two votes short of overcoming a filibuster.

A bill introduced this year by State Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln, the Medicinal Cannabis Act, was similar to the 2021 bill but has not advanced from the Judiciary Committee.

This year’s effort consists of two petitions, both statutory — one to set up the doctor patient system and one to regulate the industry.

Wishart, speaking on the floor of the Legislature on Thursday, said that doctors have told Eggers that her son’s life could be saved by medical cannabis.

Advocates maintain that cannabis is an effective and safe medical alternative that has helped relieve pain, seizures and PTSD symptoms. Critics, which include former Gov. Pete Ricketts, say that legalization will lead to increased teen usage of marijuana and other problems.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska state government and the state for decades. Previously with the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha Sun, he is a member of the Omaha Press Club's Hall of Fame. He grows hops, brews homemade beer, plays bass guitar and basically loves traveling and writing about the state. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation.