Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana have submitted more than 182,000 petition signatures to state officials in support of a ballot initiative to legalize medical cannabis in the state. The campaign needed to submit more than 121,000 valid signatures from at least 5 percent of voters in at least 39 counties. The campaign said they have signatures from all of Nebraska’s 93 counties.
The group announced the launch of the signature campaign in March and said that they collected at least 14,000 signatures over the last two weeks.
State Senator Anna Wishart (D), co-chair of the Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana campaign committee who also sponsored legislation last year that was ultimately never voted on, said advocates are “confident” they’ve met the state requirements to put the issue to voters in November.
“This signature drive included a truly impressive feat of grassroots mobilization. We would not have crossed the finish line without the tireless efforts of advocates, patients, families, volunteers, and hardworking Nebraskans who believe in this cause. We’re also proud to say that we registered over five thousand new voters from across the state.” – Wishart in a statement
The signature-gathering effort was spearheaded by Heartland Strategy Group. Heartland’s President Barry Rubin noted that the coronavirus pandemic “severely impacted” signature-gathering efforts for the petition but said “the dedication of … petition circulators, along with the passionate support for this issue from Nebraskans of all backgrounds” pushed the effort forward.
“In the coming months, we will be making the case to voters that establishing a system of safe access for medical cannabis, as 33 other states have done, will be tremendously beneficial for the people of Nebraska,” Rubin said in a press release.
The reforms are opposed by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who has penned at least three columns disapproving of medical cannabis legalization in the state. In a column last May, Ricketts argued that medical cannabis legalization is a gateway to adult-use. In a January column, the governor claimed that cannabis activists “have been trying to circumvent the medical research process that has helped [the] country produce the most safe and effective healthcare in the world” and points out that the Food and Drug Administration has already approved four medications derived from cannabis. He asserted in a 2015 column that “any legalization effort outside [the FDA] process puts Nebraskans at risk.”
The campaign expects state officials to issue a decision on whether they have met the ballot requirements by mid-August.
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