Nebraska medical marijuana campaign turns in signatures for two initiatives

On July 7, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana submitted about 180,000 combined signatures for two ballot initiatives, or about 90,000 signatures for each initiative, that would legalize and regulate medical marijuana. 

Both ballot initiatives are state statutes and require a number of signatures equal to 7% of the state’s registered voters as of the deadline. As of July 1, that number was 86,772 signatures. Nebraska also has a distribution requirement mandating that petitions contain signatures from 5% of the registered voters in each of two-fifths (38) of the state’s 93 counties.

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s distribution requirement in May. On June 13, 2022, a judge for the U.S. District Court for Nebraska issued an order temporarily blocking the state’s distribution requirement pending a final decision on its constitutionality. On July 6, 2022, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the lower court’s ruling allowing the secretary of state to enforce the distribution requirement.

The first initiative, titled the Nebraska Medical Cannabis Patient Protection Act, would legalize the use of up to five ounces of marijuana for medical purposes by qualified patients. Qualified patients would be defined as individuals 18 years of age or older with a written recommendation from a healthcare practitioner or an individual younger than 18 with a written recommendation from a healthcare practitioner and with written permission from a legal guardian.

The second initiative, titled the Nebraska Medical Cannabis Regulation Act, would legalize the possession, manufacture, distribution, delivery, and dispensing of marijuana for medical purposes and establish the Nebraska Medical Cannabis Commission to regulate and provide the necessary registration for the medical marijuana program.

The initiatives were filed by State Senators Anna Wishart (D-27) and Adam Morfeld (D-46). “There’s no campaign in the history of the state of Nebraska who has turned in, on a total grassroots basis, this number of signatures,” Wishart said.

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana qualified a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in 2020. However, the Nebraska Supreme Court removed it from the ballot in September after it concluded the initiative violated the state’s single-subject rule requiring initiatives to address one subject. The court argued that the initiative violated the single-subject rule because it provided a constitutional property right to grow and sell marijuana and authorized other policies that would regulate the use of medical marijuana that did not naturally connect to the general purpose of a constitutional right to use medical marijuana for individuals with serious medical conditions.

Counties have 40 days to verify the submitted signatures. The general election ballot will be finalized on September 16.

As of July 2022, medical marijuana was legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Of the 37 states, 18 states established medical marijuana through the ballot initiative process. In the other 19 states, it was established through legislation.

Additional reading:

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Program Initiative (2022)

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Regulation Initiative (2022)