Setting their sights on the future, two Nebraska lawmakers have decided to start circulating petitions to put a constitutional amendment that would legalize medical marijuana on the ballots in 2020. The new organization, Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, will need to gather signatures from 10 percent of registered voters – with at least 5 percent of voters in 38 of the states’ counties – for their ballot initiative to reach voters in the next major election.
“We are quickly being surrounded by states that have sensible laws on medical marijuana, and we do not,” said State Senator Adam Morfeld, a Democrat who began the petition drive along with State Senator Anna Wishart, also a Democrat. “A lot of Nebraskans are looking to other states – to Utah and Missouri – and saying, ‘Wow, these are also conservative states and they have much more reasonable policies about this than we do.’”
This is not the first time that Nebraska has made an attempt to legalize medical marijuana; state legislature has tried twice before. Unfortunately, both times the bills failed to get enough votes to become law in the Republican-dominated state. For this reason, instead of going through legislature to make medical marijuana a reality, lawmakers decided that they would bring the issue straight to the voters.
“You’ve got to explain to voters that medical marijuana is a question of compassion and of allowing sick and suffering people to treat their conditions without being treated as criminals,” said Mr. Schweich, who added that his organization was considering 2020 medical marijuana campaigns in Idaho and Mississippi.
Along with circulating petitions and collecting signatures, Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws plan to fund-raise, educate the public, poll voters and draft the full language of the proposed constitutional amendment. Considering other states with a more conservative leaning population and legislature – most recently, Utah – have seen success legalizing medical marijuana through legislature, the chances are good that with proper funding and voter education efforts, Nebraska could join the other 33 states and D.C. that have legalized medical marijuana.
It might seem like planning for 2020 now, so shortly after the 2018 midterm elections, is jumping the gun. But the reality is that the more time this newly founded activist group has to get things in order, the better. The petitioning process is never easy and it takes a lot of effort and teamwork to get an initiative on the ballot – so starting now should give them an advantage, hopefully ensuring that voters will get their say come 2020.