Marijuana legalization campaign to continue signature gathering in Ohio for 2023 ballot

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the campaign supporting a marijuana legalization initiative in Ohio, began collecting a second round of signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot on Nov. 7, 2023.

Previously, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol submitted 136,729 valid signatures to the secretary of state in two separate rounds of signature gathering–the first submission of 206,943 signatures on Dec. 20, 2021, and the second submission of 29,918 signatures on Jan. 13, 2022. In Ohio, if a campaign is short of a valid signature requirement after they submit signatures, they have a one-week cure period to collect additional signatures. The secretary of state announced the number of signatures validated on Jan. 28, 2022.

On April 29, 2022, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol filed a lawsuit against state legislative leaders, arguing that legislative leaders claimed that signatures weren’t submitted in time. In a series of emails, state legislators claimed that a legislative vote can’t take place because valid signatures were not submitted 10 days prior to the start of the legislative period. The coalition and state legislative leaders ended and settled the lawsuit, allowing the coalition to resubmit the first 132,887 collected signatures at the start of the 2023 legislative session.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose put the initiative to the Ohio General Assembly at the start of their legislative session. In Ohio, initiated state statutes are indirect, meaning the state legislature must either approve the initiative, allowing it to become law, or not approving it, and letting it go to the ballot for voters to decide. The state legislature has four months to either approve the initiative, reject it, or not act on it. If the state legislature does not act on the measure or rejects it, the campaign supporting the initiative has another 90 days to collect the second round of signatures.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has 90 days to collect another additional round of signatures, starting on May 5, 2023. An initiative would need 124,046 signatures in the second round to qualify for the 2023 ballot.

Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol spokesman Tom Haren said, “It’s going to be on the ballot and it’s going to pass. Ohio consumers will not have to rely on their drug dealers or go to Michigan. They will be able to have safe, effective and regulated adult use of cannabis right here in the Buckeye State. … The primary way that it will help Ohio is it’ll provide an alternative to the illicit and unregulated market.”

The initiative would legalize the use, possession, cultivation, and sale of recreational marijuana for adults over 21 years old. It would also enact a 10% cannabis tax rate on adult-use sales. Currently, 21 states and Washington, D.C., had legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes, and 37 states and D.C. had legalized marijuana for medical purposes.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) opposes the measure, saying, “I do not … support legalizing marijuana for recreational use. I have seen the negative effects it has had in states that have legalized it and fear that it would also lead to increased use by underage kids and that small children could consume marijuana-laced foods that look like candy.”

As of May 8, there were no ballot measures on the Nov. 7, 2023, general election ballot in Ohio. There were five potential measures that could make the ballot, including the marijuana legalization measure.

Additional reading:

Florida marijuana legalization initiative has 94% of signatures needed to appear on 2024 ballot

Smart & Safe Florida, a campaign supporting a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Florida, has collected 786,688 valid signatures, 88% of the 891,523 valid signatures needed to be placed on the ballot in 2024.

The initiative would legalize marijuana for adults 21 years old and older. Individuals would be allowed to possess up to three ounces of marijuana (about 85 grams), with up to five grams in the form of concentrate. Existing Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers would be authorized under the initiative to sell marijuana to adults for personal use. The Florida State Legislature could provide by state law for the licensure of entities other than existing Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers to cultivate and sell marijuana products.

The initiative was cleared for signature gathering on Aug. 23, 2022. Since then, the campaign has collected an average of 23,360 valid signatures each week.

Signatures equaling at least 8% of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election must be collected from at least half (14) of the state’s 28 congressional districts. So far, the signature distribution requirement has been met in 12 of the districts. The campaign has collected 99.86% of the signatures needed in District 5 from Duval and St. Johns counties and 88.97% of the number needed in District 13 from Pinellas County, and will likely meet the distribution requirement in those districts after the next monthly signature update.

The campaign has raised $30.5 million, all from Trulieve Cannabis Corp., a marijuana business that operates in several states, including Florida. The campaign has spent $27.42 per valid signature collected so far. According to campaign reports covering information through March 31, 2023, Smart and Safe Florida had paid $23.07 million to Axiom Strategies and Vanguard Field Strategies for signature gathering.

Across all states with an initiative process, the average cost of a petition drive increased 297% from 2016 to 2022. So far, the cost of this signature drive is 463% more expensive than the average signature drive cost in Florida in 2016. The cost of running a successful initiative signature drive in Florida was $4.1 million in 2016, $4.6 million in 2018, and $6.7 million in 2020. No initiatives qualified for the Florida ballot in 2022. Marijuana legalization initiative campaigns in four states spent between $68,000 and $3.66 million on signature drives for 2022 initiatives.

In 2016, voters in Florida legalized medical marijuana through a ballot initiative, which was approved by a vote of 71.32% in favor and 28.68% opposed.

In Florida, constitutional amendments require a 60% supermajority vote of approval to pass. This requirement was added to the state constitution through voter approval of Amendment 3 in 2006. Since then, nine constitutional amendments (including a 2014 medical marijuana initiative) received a majority of votes in favor but failed to reach the 60% threshold and were therefore defeated.

As of May 2023, 21 states and Washington, D.C., had legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. In seven states, bills to legalize marijuana were enacted into law. In 15 states and Washington, D.C., voters approved ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use. The average yes vote was 57.86% and the average no vote was 42.21% with an average margin of victory of 15.65%.

Of the 15 marijuana legalization ballot measures, four received a vote of approval of 60% or higher. The measure with the highest margin of victory was Washington, D.C.’s 2014 initiative, which was approved by a vote of 70.06% to 29.94% for a margin of victory of 40.12%. The measure with the lowest margin of victory was Maine’s 2016 initiative, which was approved by a vote of 50.26% to 49.74% for a margin of victory of 0.52%.

Note: the Florida Division of Elections previously stated that the campaign had submitted 841,130 valid signatures due to an error by one county in reporting signatures to the state. The count posted on the Division of Elections website has since been updated to reflect that the campaign had submitted 786,688 valid signatures as of May 9, 2023.

Initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio submitted to state legislature

On Jan. 4, 2022, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) sent a letter to legislative leaders announcing that he is resubmitting to the Ohio General Assembly an indirect citizen-initiated measure to legalize the use of recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and over. 

The initiative was originally filed in 2021 by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, and signatures were submitted at the end of 2021. Due to disagreements about the timeline for submitting signatures and legislative consideration, the campaign filed a lawsuit against legislative leaders in 2022. A settlement allowed for the signatures to be submitted at the start of the 2023 legislative session.

“The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is pleased that our proposal was re-transmitted to the Ohio General Assembly and that the secretary of state clarified that the General Assembly’s four-month clock to consider our proposal has begun,” said Tom Haren, a spokesperson for the campaign.

In Ohio, the state legislature will now have four months to consider the proposal. If the measure does not pass the legislature, it may appear on the ballot for Ohio voters on November 7, 2023.

Haren stated, “As we have always said, we intend to work with legislative leadership in good faith to legalize marijuana for all adults through the legislative process. If the General Assembly fails to act, however, we will place our proposal before Ohio voters this November and it will pass.”

Recreational marijuana has been legalized in 21 states. Marijuana was most recently legalized statewide in Maryland and Missouri in 2022 by ballot measures in those states (measures in South Dakota, Arkansas, and North Dakota failed to pass in 2022). Petitions are also currently circulating in Florida and Nebraska to put the question to voters on the 2024 ballot.

Ohio voters may see the issue on their ballots in 2023, depending on whether or not the General Assembly passes the measure and the campaign collects a second round of signatures after the legislative period.

Initially, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol filed 206,943 signatures to the secretary of state in December 2021. Of these signatures, 119,825 were found valid by Secretary LaRose on Jan. 3, 2022, but 13,062 more were needed. In Ohio, campaigns are given an additional week to collect more signatures. The campaign submitted 29,918 additional signatures on January 13, 2022, and the state legislature did not decide on the measure within the four-month window. Additionally, the committee became aware of conversations among legislative officials and the attorney general’s office pertaining to whether or not it submitted signatures in time, due to the interpretation of the Ohio Constitution regarding the signature deadline. This prompted the committee to file a lawsuit, and the settlement allowed for the submission of their collected signatures at the start of the 2023 legislative session rather than starting the process over again.

The Ohio General Assembly will have four months to vote on the measure. If they vote to reject the measure or take no action on it, an additional number of signatures will be required to place the initiative on the ballot for Ohio voters in 2023. An additional number of signatures that is equal to 3% of the votes cast in the preceding gubernatorial election are required to place the initiative on the ballot.

The last citizen initiative on the Ohio ballot was in 2018, a measure relating to drug offenses that was defeated by voters. From 1985 to 2022, 24 citizen initiatives appeared on the ballot in Ohio. Eight of those measures were approved and 16 were defeated.

Additional reading:

Missouri voters to decide on marijuana this November

Five measures will be on the Missouri ballot on November 8. One ballot measure, Amendment 3, would legalize the sale, possession, and use of marijuana in Missouri. 

Amendment 3 would also provide for individuals with certain marijuana-related offenses to petition for release from prison or parole and probation and have their records expunged. It also would enact a 6% tax on the sale of marijuana.

Amendment 3 is one of five marijuana measures on the ballot nationwide this November. Marijuana legalization will also be on the ballot in Arkansas, Maryland, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

As of 2022, 19 states, along with Washington, D.C., had legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and Washington D.C. have used the ballot initiative process to legalize marijuana, while in seven states, bills to legalize marijuana were enacted into law. In one state, New Jersey, the legislature referred a measure to the ballot for voter approval.

Polling on Missouri’s Amendment 3, done by Emerson College Polling/The Hill from September 23 to September 27, showed that 48% of likely voters surveyed supported the measure, while 35% of likely voters surveyed opposed the measure (with 17% undecided). 

The Kansas City Star Editorial Board endorsed Amendment 3, writing, “It’s been four years since almost 66% of Missouri voters approved medical marijuana. If state lawmakers wanted legal recreational pot in Missouri, as some have argued, we would have it. So let the people decide. In our view, the benefits of recreational cannabis outweigh some of the technical issues raised by critics.”

Supporters of Amendment 3 include the ACLU of Missouri, the Missouri AFL-CIO, NORML KC, and the St. Louis City branch of the NAACP. Erik Altieri, the executive director of NORML, said that the majority of Missouri residents want to end the prohibition on marijuana. “Recent polling reveals that a majority of Missouri residents are ready and eager to end their state’s failed marijuana prohibition,” said Altieri, “That is because Missourians, like the overwhelming majority of all Americans, recognize that prohibition is a disastrous and draconian practice best cast into the waste bin of history.”

Opponents of Amendment 3 include Gov. Mike Parson (R), the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Missouri Catholic Conference, and the Missouri Constitutional Conservatives PAC. “Amendment 3 says a court cannot prohibit a person on bond, probation, or parole from continuing to use marijuana,” said the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys in a statement, “Further, in less serious cases involving medical marijuana users, if sentenced to participate in one of Missouri’s treatment courts, Amendment 3 attempts to require courts to allow defendants to continue to get high on marijuana regardless of the circumstances or their addiction. This is a threat to the safety of our communities and kids.”

The Missouri NAACP, breaking with the St. Louis City and St. Louis County chapters, also opposes Amendment 3, saying that the measure “does not increase the number of available full market licenses,” and that “the expungement program is dependent on legislative authorization funding and so doesn’t actually exist.” 

Voters will decide on Amendment 3 on November 8, 2022. Amendment 3 needs a simple majority vote to be ratified.

Additional reading:

Five states to decide in November on legalizing recreational marijuana

In November, five more states will decide on marijuana legalization ballot measures. In the central U.S., voters in Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota will consider citizen-initiated measures to legalize marijuana. These four states are Republican trifectas. In Maryland, which has a divided government, the state Legislature voted to put the issue before voters.

Arkansas Issue 4: Amends the constitution to legalize the possession and use of up to one ounce of marijuana for persons who are at least 21 years old, enacts a 10% tax on marijuana sales, and requires the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division to develop rules to regulate marijuana businesses.

Maryland Question 4: Amends the constitution to legalize marijuana for persons who are at least 21 years old beginning in July 2023 and directs the Maryland State Legislature to pass laws for the use, distribution, regulation, and taxation of marijuana.

Missouri Amendment 3: Amends the constitution tolegalize marijuana for persons who are 21 years old or older, allows individuals convicted of non-violent marijuana-related offenses to petition to be released from incarceration and/or have their records expunged, and enacts a 6% tax on the sale of marijuana.

North Dakota Statutory Measure 2: Amends state law to legalize the use and possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for persons who are 21 years old, allows individuals to grow up to three marijuana plants, and requires the Department of Health and Human Services to establish rules regulating marijuana by October 1, 2023.

South Dakota Initiated Measure 27: Amends state law to legalize marijuana for persons who are 21 years old and allows adults to possess one ounce or less of marijuana.

Heading into November, marijuana was legal in 19 states and D.C. Of those 19 states, 11 and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process. One state, New Jersey, passed a legislatively referred measure.

Twenty-three states could legalize marijuana through the initiative process. Initiatives were used to legalize marijuana in 11 of the 23 states, meaning in twelve states where marijuana is currently illegal, the ballot initiative process could be used to legalize marijuana. In addition to the four states featuring marijuana initiatives in 2022, Oklahoma will vote on marijuana legalization in 2024. Marijuana legalization initiatives targeting the 2023 and 2024 ballots have also been filed in Ohio, Wyoming, Florida, and Nebraska and could be filed in Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Utah.

Additional reading:

Challenge period for Oklahoma marijuana initiative ends with four challenges filed; state supreme court to decide on whether the initiative will appear on the 2022 ballot

A 10-day challenge period for Oklahoma marijuana initiative State Question 820 ended on September 15 with four challenges filed with the state Supreme Court. In addition to resolving the challenges, the Supreme Court is also set to decide on whether the measure will be placed on the November 2022 ballot.

Once signatures for an initiative are submitted, the secretary of state’s office counts the signatures and submits a report to the court. On August 22, the secretary of state announced that proponents submitted 117,257 valid signatures and forwarded the signature count report to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. After the supreme court determines the sufficiency of signatures, the court orders the secretary of state to publish a notice of the signature submission, the ballot title, and notice that any citizen may file a petition challenging the sufficiency of the signatures or ballot title within 10 days.

The challenge period for State Question 820 began on September 1 and ended on September 15, 2022. Two challenges were filed related to the validity of signatures submitted for the initiative and two challenges were filed related to the initiative’s ballot language.

Former Oklahoma State Rep. Mike Reynolds (R) and former gubernatorial candidate Paul Tay (I) filed lawsuits with the Oklahoma Supreme Court challenging the validity of signatures submitted by proponents. Reynolds argued that the validity of signatures cannot be reviewed without taking legal action to review them and requested a signature review period. Tay argued that signatures collected on American Indian lands should be invalidated. Attorneys for initiative sponsors said, “As this Court is aware, ballot deadlines are looming, and time is of the essence here. Proponents thus respectfully request that the Court resolve the instant challenge quickly, to ensure that SQ820 may be submitted to a vote of the People at the upcoming November 2022 general election.”

A challenge to the initiative’s ballot language was filed by John Stotts, a former member of the Pottawatomie County Farm Bureau board of directors; Karma Robinson, president of public affairs and political communications firm GR Pro; and Mary Chris Barth, a current member of the Beaver County Farm Bureau’s board of directors. The challenge alleged that the ballot language is misleading because it fails to mention that “several laws protecting children from marijuana would be removed,” “possession of a firearm while under the influence of marijuana would be legalized,” and “more serious marijuana crimes would be legalized or decriminalized.”

A second challenge to the ballot language was filed by Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action director Jed Green, sponsor of other proposed marijuana initiatives for which no signatures were submitted by the August deadline. Green alleged that State Question 820’s ballot language is misleading because it fails to mention that the initiative could be amended by the state legislature if approved by voters, public consumption fines would be limited to $25, and that medical marijuana dispensaries would need a second license to sell adult-use marijuana.

After an initiative petition is found to have sufficient signatures and all challenges have been resolved, the secretary of state notifies the governor, who issues an election proclamation. The governor’s election proclamation must be issued and certified to the State Election Board at least 70 days prior to an election in order for a state question to appear on a ballot. Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said August 29 (70 days prior to the general election) was the deadline to formally certify measures for the ballot.

State Question 820 sponsors asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to expedite the ballot title verification process and include the measure on the November 2022 ballot, saying that “The new process took about 48 days from the time we turned in our signatures until the time they were verified. In the past, that was usually about two weeks or a little longer. It’s been a new process for them, which has caused a lot of missteps along the way. They have dropped the ball, which is why we have asked the Supreme Court to intervene.” The state argued for the measure to be placed on the ballot for a later election — either a special election if one is called or the 2024 ballot.

In a press release published on September 16, the State Question 820 campaign said proponents “remain optimistic that the Oklahoma Supreme Court will act swiftly to dismiss the seemingly politically motivated challenges, and let the people vote.”

Marijuana legalization measures are certified to appear on the 2022 ballot in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Votes on the Arkansas initiative may not be counted pending a state Supreme Court ruling.

Marijuana legalization initiative certified for the ballot in Missouri

On Aug. 9, 2022, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R) announced that a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Missouri qualified for the November 8 general election ballot.

The citizen-initiated ballot measure, led by the Legal Missouri 2022 campaign, needed 171,592 signatures to qualify for the ballot. Legal Missouri 2022 submitted more than 385,000 signatures in May. Secretary Ashcroft certified that a sufficient number of verified signatures were submitted to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

If voters approve of the initiative in November, the measure would amend the Missouri Constitution to legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri for adults over the age of 21. It would also allow personal cultivation of marijuana with prescribed limits and regulations, impose a six percent tax on the retail price of marijuana, and allow people with a record of certain marijuana-related non-violent offenses to petition for release from incarceration or parole and probation and to have their records expunged. It would also establish a lottery selection process to award licenses and certificates, and distribute licenses within each congressional district.

While medicinal marijuana is legal for those with a medical ID card in Missouri, recreational marijuana is illegal.

John Payne, the campaign manager of Legal Missouri 2022, said, “We look forward to engaging with voters across the state in the coming weeks and months. Missourians are more than ready to end the senseless and costly prohibition of marijuana.”

Supporters of the initiative include the ACLU of Missouri, the NAACP of St. Louis City, and NORML of Kansas City. “Cannabis reform is about more than establishing a safe and legal market,” said Jamie Kacz, the executive director of NORML KC, “It is about righting the many wrongs prohibition has caused to our communities, especially communities of color.”

Christina Thompson, with ShowMe Canna-Freedom, is critical of the regulations regarding commercial licenses. Thompson said, “This initiative eliminates nearly all competition through constitutionally protected license caps. Recreational licenses created under the initiative will go straight to established businesses as well, meaning instead of opening up more business opportunities for others, money only goes to those who are already profiting.”

The Missouri initiative joins two other marijuana legalization ballot measures that will appear on the ballot in the November general election–a constitutional amendment in Maryland, and an initiated state statute in South Dakota.

There are now five certified measures on the Missouri ballot for November 2022.

Additional reading:

Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners declines to certify ballot language for initiatives to legalize marijuana and repeal Pope County’s casino authorization

On August 3, the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners declined to certify the ballot titles and popular names for two initiatives that had submitted signatures. Fair Play for Arkansas 2022 said they were considering their options to challenge the board’s decision. Responsible Growth Arkansas said they planned to challenge the board’s decision with the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Responsible Growth Arkansas, the campaign behind the marijuana legalization initiative, submitted more than 190,000 signatures on July 8, 2022. The Arkansas Secretary of State announced on July 29 that the campaign had submitted more than the required number of valid signatures (89,151) and would qualify for the ballot if the Board of Election Commissioners certified the ballot language.

The measure would legalize marijuana use for individuals 21 years of age and older and authorize the commercial sale of marijuana with a 10% sales tax. Adults could possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Under the amendment, businesses that already hold licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program would be authorized to sell marijuana for personal use. An additional 40 licenses would be given to businesses chosen by a lottery. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would regulate the program and provide for cannabis business licensing.

Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process.

Fair Play for Arkansas 2022 reported submitting 103,096 signatures for an initiative to repeal the casino authorization for Pope County. In 2018, voters approved Issue 4 authorizing the county to grant a casino license for one casino. Under Issue 4, the Pope County license required applicants to pay fees to apply, demonstrate experience in conducting casino gaming, or furnish a letter of support from the county judge. The Pope County license was awarded to the Cherokee Nation.

In Arkansas, a total of 44 ballot measures appeared on the statewide ballot between 2000 and 2020. Thirty-two (72.73%) ballot measures were approved, and 12 (27.27%) ballot measures were defeated.

Campaign in North Dakota submits signatures for marijuana legalization initiative

In North Dakota, a campaign behind a marijuana legalization initiative reported submitting 25,672 signatures on July 11, 2022. New Approach North Dakota Chairman Dave Owen said, “This signature drive showed us that, from Williston to Grand Forks, people all across our state are ready for responsible cannabis policy reform… We’re looking forward to all of our hard work paying off when we receive the official word that we’re on the ballot.” Of the signatures submitted, 15,582 signatures must be valid for the initiative to appear on the ballot in November.

Along with North Dakota, campaigns submitted signatures for marijuana legalization initiatives targeting the November ballot in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

The measure would legalize the personal use of cannabis for adults 21 and older and allow individuals possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to three cannabis plants. The measure would require the Department of Health and Human Services, or another department or agency designated by the state legislature, to establish an adult-use cannabis program to regulate the production and distribution of adult-use marijuana by October 1, 2023. Under the measure, the department could license seven cultivation facilities and 18 cannabis retailers. Marijuana would be taxed at the state’s 5% sales tax rate.

David Owen was also the chairman of LegalizeND, the committee that sponsored a marijuana legalization initiative that voters rejected in 2018. Owen said that the biggest difference between Measure 3 of 2018 and this initiative is that “[this initiative] is restricted, regulated, controlled, legal marijuana. This is a marijuana program that is very, very similar to the one that passed the North Dakota State House.”

Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process.

In North Dakota, a total of 115 ballot measures appeared on the statewide ballot during even-numbered election years between 1986 and 2020. Fifty-seven ballot measures (49.57%) were approved, and 58 ballot measures (50.43%) were defeated.

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)