Medical Marijuana Qualifies for Nebraska Ballot but Faces Legal Challenges

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LINCOLN, Neb. – An initiative to legalize medical marijuana is set to appear on the Nebraska ballot this November, at least as it stands now. If approved, the new law would allow “the Nebraska Constitution to provide the right to use, possess, access, and safely produce cannabis, and cannabis products and materials, for serious medical conditions as recommended by a physician or nurse practitioner.”

Spearheading the effort to bring the initiative forward, cannabis advocacy group Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana collected the more than 182,000 signatures to get the issue to voters for the upcoming election, a task complicated by the COVID-19 crisis.

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“We collected 123,000 signatures in one month—during a pandemic,” said the co-chair of the group’s ballot committee and State Senator Anna Wishart. “We couldn’t have done that without the support of tens of thousands of Nebraskans across the state. This is overwhelming evidence that voters want medical marijuana on the ballot and legal for patients with serious and debilitating health conditions.”

In spite of the apparent voter support, Nebraska’s Secretary of State Robert B. Evnen seemed to labor over his decision to approve the medicinal cannabis initiative. He expressed concern over some of the language included in the ballot and referred to his decision to approve the measure as a “close call.”

“In determining that the language of the initiative is legally sufficient I did my best to follow the law, and I believe that I have done so,” Evnen said. “Ultimately, the Supreme Court will decide whether I am correct, and I will comply with the decision of the court.”

The court decision may come sooner than Evnen expected.

Represented by former Nebraska Republican Party chairman Mark Fahleson, Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner on Friday filed a lawsuit challenging Evnen’s ruling that the medical marijuana initiative qualified for the ballot. The lawsuit claims the initiative violates the state’s rule requiring ballot measures to focus on a single question.

According to Wagner, the measure poses two questions: “whether residents should have the right to use marijuana for medical purposes, and whether private companies should be allowed to grow and sell it.”

State Senator Adam Morfeld, who co-chairs Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana with Wishart, projected confidence that the ballot followed all Nebraska requirements.

“We crafted this based off prior Supreme Court precedent, including the most recent Medicaid expansion ruling by the Supreme Court. And we are confident it is constitutional and over 190,000 Nebraskans signed petitions to put this on the ballot, and it should be on the ballot,” Morfeld told NET, Nebraska’s NPR and PBS outlet.

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