Cannabis Advocates in Nebraska File Lawsuit Challenging Ballot Initiative Process

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana filed a lawsuit against the state’s ballot initiative process which requires signatures from 5% of registered voters in 38 counties, a rule that gives disproportionate power to rural voters.

Full story after the jump.

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) on Monday filed a lawsuit in federal court contesting Nebraska’s rules for putting initiatives on the ballot, the Associated Press reports. The lawsuit takes aim at the state’s so called “5 percent rule” for ballot initiatives.

Under Nebraska’s constitution, groups seeking to put an initiative on the ballot must collect 5% of the total of registered voters in 38 of the states’ 93 counties, a rule that forces groups to gather signatures in more sparsely populated areas and not just in densely populated cities. NMM has until July 7 to collect around 87,000 signatures to put a medical cannabis question on the 2022 ballot, a task made more difficult after they recently lost one of their largest donors, the report says.

NMM argues that the rule gives disproportionate power to rural voters. In the complaint, they say that one voter in “desolate” Arthur County has as much voting power as 1,216 voters in Douglas County, home to Omaha — Nebraska’s largest city.  A spokesperson for Secretary of State Bob Evnen, who was named in the lawsuit as the state’s top election official, said Evnan has turned the lawsuit over to the Nebraska Attorney General to defend.

The advocates gathered enough signatures in 2020 to put a medical cannabis question on ballots but the state Supreme Court blocked the effort on technical difficulties, the AP says.

In addition to the blocked initiative, Nebraska has struggled on the legislative front to reform cannabis policy. Last year, Republican Gov. Pete Rickets said that cannabis “is not medicine” and later that year claimed that legalizing cannabis “will kill your kids.”

Nebraska medical cannabis activists argue that a bill introduced by Republican state Sen. Mike Groene includes a “poison pill” meant to reduce the likelihood that broader medical cannabis reforms would pass were the question to make November ballots.

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