Initiative to Legalize Medical Marijuana Filed in Nebraska

A ballot initiative that would make medical marijuana legal for everyone 21 and older has been filed in Nebraska.

The initiative was filed by State Senators Anna Wishart (D) and Adam Morfeld (D) on behalf of Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, a nonprofit political committee. The group is hoping to collect enough signatures to place the initiative on the November, 2020 ballot.

“We have evidence showing that it helps,” says Senator Wishart. “So to deny people access to that, to me, is tragic. And that’s why we are pushing for this initiative on two fronts.” Wishart adds that “Thirty-two states have already adopted effective medical marijuana laws, and Nebraska will soon be joining their ranks.”

If the initiative is successfully put on the ballot and passed by voters, medical marijuana and marijuana products would become legal throughout the state. In order to legally possess and use medical marijuana, an individual would first need to receive a recommendation from a physician or a nurse practitioner, and then register with the state. Once a person does so and becomes a legal medical marijuana patient, they would be authorized to purchase the medicine from a licensed marijuana dispensary. They would also be allowed to grow small amounts of marijuana at a private residence.

The initiative would give Nebraska residents the opportunity to use, possess and access cannabis products and equipment if they received a recommendation from a doctor or nurse practitioner. It would also include provisions allowing people to produce an adequate supply of cannabis.

Attorney General Doug Peterson (R), Governor Pete Ricketts (R), and former Husker football coach and former Representative Tom Osborne (R) recently held a press conference condemning the measure.

“I don’t think that (Osborne’s) opposition has stopped what I see as a groundswell of support in Nebraska to legalize medical marijuana,” Senator Wishart told the Journal Star in response.

According to Senator Morfeld, the group will need to collect between 130,000 and 140,000 signatures and turn them in by July 2020 in order to place their initiative to a vote of the people.

A poll released last year found that 77% of voters in Nebraska said they would vote “Yes” on a ballot question to allow medical cannabis. Just 22% said they would vote “No.” The margin of error was -/+ 4.9%.

If Nebraska does legalize medical marijuana, they would join 33 others states, plus Washington D.C., which has done so. 10 states have legalized the plant for all uses.

As noted by the Journal Star, bills to legalize medical cannabis have been introduced and debated multiple times in Nebraska in recent years but none have gathered the needed votes from a majority of the 49 senators to pass.

“We both take seriously that we were elected by Nebraskans to show up and take leadership roles in addressing really tough issues”, says Wishart. “And so it’s frustrating when our Legislature doesn’t do that, and we end up having to go to the people to do, really, what our jobs are”.

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