The Nebraska Secretary of State’s office announced last week that advocates fell short on signatures to qualify two medical cannabis legalization initiatives for the November ballot, but a state senator has pledged to introduce legislation to address the issue while state officials double check the signatures submitted for the ballot measure.
Roughly 87,000 valid signatures were required by July 7 to get the group’s initiatives before voters this fall.
The first petition, called the Medical Cannabis Regulation Initiative, would add a line to the state Constitution that provides for a “right to cannabis in all its forms for medical purposes," while the second petition, called the Medical Cannabis Patient Protections Initiative, would protect qualifying patients and their caregivers from arrest for the use of medical cannabis recommended by a doctor.
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana collected the required number of valid signatures to get a similar medical cannabis legalization measure before voters in the November 2020 election, only to have the Nebraska Supreme Court rule that the ballot initiative violated the single-subject rule outlined in the state Constitution.
A judge granted a preliminary injunction in the case in June, although a federal appeals court ultimately overturned that decision early last month.
Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen announced last week that the two initiatives put forth by Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana ultimately failed to meet the signature requirements to qualify for the November ballot, according to the Associated Press.
The Cannabis Regulation Initiative ultimately collected 77,119 valid signatures, AP reported, while the Patient Protections Initiative collected 77,843.
On the heels of Evnen’s announcement, Nebraska Sen. Jen Day pledged to introduce a bill during the 2023 legislative session to legalize medical cannabis legislatively, according to the Nebraska Examiner.
Day will also consider calling a special session this fall to address medical cannabis legalization, the news outlet reported, although two-thirds of Nebraska’s 49-member Legislature—33 senators—would have to agree to call a special session.
“We will exhaust every measure possible to get Nebraskans the medical freedom they deserve and want,” Day told the Nebraska Examiner. “We know that Nebraskans strongly support this.”
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana has indicated that it will launch another petition drive if this year’s effort ultimately fails, and the group may also consider adding adult-use legalization to the petition to draw more support, according to the news outlet.
Even with a second review, however, officials said that last week’s decision will likely be upheld.
“The determination regarding the legal sufficiency of the petitions provided on Monday … still stands,” Colleen Bydick, an attorney with the Secretary of State’s office, said in an email last week to Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, according to the Nebraska Examiner.