Nebraska activists hit ‘gross’ signature target for medical marijuana ballot initiatives as campaign reaches end goal

Nebraska activists say they’ve garnered the minimum number of ‘raw’ signatures needed to qualify a pair of medical marijuana legalization initiatives for the November ballot, but they’re making a final push to muster some about 5,000 more before the Thursday deadline to ensure enough petitions are valid to make the cut.

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) has faced an uphill battle bringing the issue of reform to voters, especially after losing critical campaign funding earlier this year. Activists were relieved when a federal court joined them in a lawsuit challenging a restrictive voting requirement, but the pressure to collect enough signatures with limited resources has been intense.

It appears the campaign’s work to rally supporters is paying off, with NMM Co-Chair Sen. Anna Wishart (D) announcing Wednesday morning that an “overwhelming number of Nebraskans have come forward and signed our petitions over the of the last ten days.

“Since early Wednesday morning, we’ve been hovering around the raw number of 87,000 required signatures,” she said. “At least 5,000 more Nebraskas need to come out TODAY and sign to push us past the required amount and ensure we have the necessary signatures to be successful.”

“Don’t wake up on July 8 wondering what more you could have done to help save a life.”

Reaching the raw number of signatures is far from guaranteeing that the campaign will prevail in its efforts to pass medical cannabis reform. Typically, activists seeking to qualify for a vote on any issue aim to secure a significant buffer in the event that a certain fraction of signatures are deemed invalid by the state.

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Wednesday will prove crucial to that end, and the Defenders are ready to collect as many additional signings as possible over the next 24 hours.

“By noon tomorrow, Thursday July 7, we need everyone to go get a petition to sign,” said NMM campaign manager Crista Eggers. “Nebraskans have the power to get across the finish line, so that suffering patients in our state finally have the opportunity to use medical cannabis. Please go sign. If not for your own family, for the many families who suffer without access to this life-saving treatment.

The Nebraska Democratic Party, along with the state chapter of the ACLU, supports the reform effort and encourages people to take advantage of the limited time to sign petitions.

NMM announced in May that it was restructuring its plan to put the legalization of medical marijuana on the ballot after losing key funding. The campaign aimed to raise $1 million so it could hire paid signature canvassers, but after the death of a key donor and the terminal diagnosis of another, the campaign is left with around $30,000 on hand.

Supporters held a virtual press conference that month to detail their new plan to qualify a pair of cannabis initiatives for the November ballot.

A move would require lawmakers to codify protections for doctors who recommend cannabis and patients who purchase and possess it. The other would mandate legislative action to protect the marijuana companies that supply the product.

The reason the measures are narrowly tailored and bifurcated is that activists want to avoid the kind of legal challenge that led the state Supreme Court to strike down an earlier medical cannabis legalization measure for which they successfully raised more enough signatures to qualify for the 2020 ballot.

The court ruled that year that the initiative violated the single subject rule for ballot measures because it took a comprehensive approach to establishing the program’s regulations.

For each of the new initiatives in 2022, activists will need to collect approximately 87,000 valid signatures.

Lawmakers tried to push forward medical cannabis legislative reform last year, but as the unicameral legislature debated a bill to legalize medical marijuana in May, it failed to get past the law. filibuster because the body didn’t have enough voice to overcome it.

Meanwhile, the campaign is also facing resistance from Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), a staunch opponent of legalization. Late last year, he teamed up with prohibitionist group SAM Nebraska for an ad urging residents to oppose cannabis reform in the state.

For his part, Nebraska’s attorney general argued in a 2019 opinion that efforts to legalize medical marijuana in the state would be prevented by federal law and “would therefore be unconstitutional.”

Here is the status of other drug policy reform measures in 2022:

Activists in Oklahoma said on Tuesday they had submitted what they believed were more than enough signatures to qualify a marijuana legalization initiative for the November ballot.

Maryland lawmakers passed legislation this year, which the governor has cleared to go into effect without his signature, that will put the issue of cannabis legalization before voters in November.

In May, South Dakota officials certified that activists had filed enough signatures earlier that month to qualify a marijuana legalization measure for the November ballot.

Missouri advocates have turned in more than double the number of signatures needed to qualify a marijuana legalization initiative for the ballot.

Activists in North Dakota recently cleared a procedural hurdle to begin collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the state.

Colorado activists announced last week that they had submitted what they believe were more than enough signatures to place a measure on the state ballot that would legalize psychedelics and create “healing centers licensed psilocybin drugs where people can use the substance for therapeutic purposes. A competing psychedelic reform campaign is still garnering signatures for a more streamlined competing measure.

A move to legalize marijuana will not appear on Ohio’s November ballot, the campaign behind the measure announced in May. But the activists have reached an agreement with state officials in a legal challenge that will give them a chance to start in 2023.

Michigan activists announced last month that they would no longer pursue a ballot initiative on the legalization of psychedelics statewide for this year’s election and would instead focus on qualifying the measure before the voters in 2024.

The campaign behind an effort to decriminalize drugs and expand treatment and recovery services in Washington state said last month it halted efforts to qualify an initiative for the November ballot.

While Wyoming activists said earlier this year they had made solid progress collecting signatures for a pair of ballot initiatives to decriminalize marijuana possession and legalize medical cannabis, they don’t. have not achieved enough to meet the 2022 ballot deadline and will aim for 2024 while simultaneously pushing lawmakers to push forward reform even sooner.

In March, California activists announced they had failed to collect enough signatures to qualify a move to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for the state’s November ballot, though they weren’t giving up on a future candidacy for the electoral cycle.

Meanwhile, there are various local reforms activists want voters to decide in November, including local ordinances to decriminalize marijuana in Ohio, West Virginia and Texas.

Bipartisan lawmakers table even more marijuana and psychedelics reform amendments to defense bill

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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