Nebraska Supreme Court decides to eliminate medical cannabis vote from November ballot


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Hopes of medical cannabis in Nebraska being voted on during the November ballot have gone up in smoke, following a decision by the state’s Supreme Court. 

Judges ruled to drop the forthcoming vote in mid-September, after anti-cannabis lobbyists filed an opposing lawsuit. Based on details of the lawsuit, Nebraska’s medical cannabis measure violated the state Constitution.

“We reverse the Secretary of State’s decision and issue a writ of mandamus directing him to withhold the initiative from the November 2020 general election ballot,” concluded the judges, who unanimously agreed with the opponents.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that Nebraska’s medical cannabis vote has been banished from the looming 2020 election, efforts made by members of Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana a political committee supporting the use of medical cannabis for patients with debilitating conditions have gone to waste. 

The group submitted more than 190,000 signatures to register a constitutional amendment on the ballot; this number of signatures far exceeded the 122,275 that was required by state law. 

Nebraska’s single-subject ballot initiative rule violated, says county sheriff

Despite Secretary of State Bob Evnen ruling that activists had met the signature threshold, Nebraska’s medical cannabis vote will no longer be considered this year. Voters were presented with two questions regarding Nebraska’s medical cannabis vote. They were as follows:

  • Should medical cannabis be legal in Nebraska? 
  • Should private companies be responsible for selling medical cannabis in Nebraska?

“If voters are to intelligently adopt a State policy with regard to medicinal cannabis use, they must first be allowed to decide that issue alone, unencumbered by other subjects. As proposed, the [Nebraska Medical Cannabis Constitutional Amendment] contains more than one subject—by our count, it contains at least eight subjects,” reads the judges’ opinions.

Contending opinions were shared by Nebraska Governor Pete Rickets, who said that “there is no such thing as medical [cannabis].” Rickets believes that consumption of the plant would result in employees attending the workplace “stoned” and he is not sold on the idea of doctors actually prescribing cannabis as a medicine.

Evnen’s ruling was disputed in court by Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner, who claimed that it breached Nebraska’s single-subject ballot initiative rule. While Wagner’s argument was dismissed by the state, the Supreme Court agreed with him.

Pro-cannabis lobbyist group express disappointment about ruling to postpone Nebraska’s medical cannabis vote

Shortly after judges made their decision to scrap Nebraska’s medical cannabis vote, a Facebook post was published by members of Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana. According to the group, they are “devastated” by the ruling. 

“But this fight is not over. Nothing changes the fact that an overwhelming majority of Nebraskans stand with the patients and families who deserve compassion and safe access to medical cannabis. We will be regrouping and updating you all soon with plans for our next steps,” the group wrote on social media.

Had the measure been successfully voted on this November, a legal medical cannabis market would have launched across the state. Based on the official text contained in the initiative, an individual aged 18 years or older could legally obtain, purchase, access and use cannabis to alleviate a serious medical condition.