Leading Nebraska official confirms medical cannabis for ballot; anticipates court fight

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

This November, Nebraska voters will have the opportunity to decide whether or not the commercial cultivation and sale of medical cannabis should be legalized. An announcement from Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen confirmed this. However, Nebraska’s top election official made a point of noting that the decision to include medical cannabis on the ballot will likely be challenged in court.

Evnen revealed the news on Thursday, August 27, when he explained that medical cannabis advocates in Nebraska managed to gather an adequate number of valid petition signatures for the measure to qualify. In total, 182,000 voter signatures were gathered from Nebraska’s 93 counties, before being submitted to the state by a political committee called Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana.

Despite the opponent’s efforts to prevent the measure from being featured on the November ballot, Republican Evnen dismissed any measure-blocking tactics; arguing that the ballot measure’s language conformed with the necessary legal requirements. 

“It was a close case. The constitutional right to bring forward initiative petitions for a vote of the people is fundamental to our state governance and is to be zealously protected,” Evnen told reporters. “I conclude that the amendment is legally sufficient and I shall not withhold it from the ballot unless otherwise ordered by a court of competent jurisdiction.”

Medical cannabis ballot initiative likely to be challenged in Nebraska Supreme Court

While Evnen believes there is nothing wrong with Nebraska’s medical cannabis initiative, anti-cannabis activists would beg to differ. Opposition was strongly felt from Lincoln attorney and former Nebraska Republican Party chairman, Mark Fahleson. 

In a letter addressed to Evnen, Fahleson said that Nebraska’s medical cannabis proposal violates the state constitution. Opponents of the initiative are anticipated to fight against the proposal being featured on the ballot by contesting the issue in the Nebraska Supreme Court

A decision will likely be made quickly, since state law stipulates that Evnen must finalize the ballot by September 11. Fortunately, the outlook is promising, what with many Nebraskans supporting medical cannabis legalization. Then again, Republican leaders like Gov. Pete Ricketts are pushing against the motive to legalize medical cannabis in Nebraska.

Nebraska’s medical cannabis initiative would permit home-growing

In the event that Nebraska’s ballot measure passes, it would ensure a constitutional right to use and cultivate the plant; so long as a doctor recommends it with no restrictions on what diseases would qualify for plant-based medicines. An “adequate” supply would be granted among patients who wish to grow their own buds, so long as Nebraska’s medical cannabis initiative is approved in the 2020 general election.

This initiative isn’t the first of its kind. Previously, pro-cannabis lobbyists pushed for measures to legalize medical cannabis in Nebraska.  In 2019, LB 110 sponsored by Senator Anna Wishart was disregarded. Had it been acknowledged, a sensible and compassionate medical cannabis program would have been established statewide. 

However, lawmakers continuously dismissed those efforts, which ultimately led to citizen petition drive backers kicking the campaign into high gear. In spite of the recurring letdowns, November’s electoral outlook will give voters a new window of opportunity to bring Nebraska’s medical cannabis initiative to the forefront; once again.