Barely three weeks following peak optimism, a group of medical cannabis legalization advocates in Nebraska now have dashed hopes of hitting their signature benchmark ahead of a July 7 deadline to appear on the state’s November ballot.
Proponents of Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM), a grassroots initiative effort, announced June 22 that they’re about 50,000 signatures short of putting a pair of complementary legalization measures before voters this year. The group has 60,000 of the roughly 87,000 valid John Hancocks it needs for each measure but is hoping to gather north of 110,000 signatures for each measure to provide a cushion for those that are not validated.
State Sen. Anna Wishart, D-Lincoln, a co-sponsor of the petitions, announced earlier this month that the ballot campaign was on track after NMM had raised $50,000 and doubled its signature count to approximately 40,000 for each measure in a two-week period. The group had qualified 15 of Nebraska’s 93 counties at that time.
This week, Wishart wasn’t so confident.
“The reality is we need 50,000 Nebraskans to sign the petition in the next two weeks,” she said, NBC-affiliate WOWT reported. “Now it’s on Nebraskans. The volunteers and patients have carried the water this far. It’s on Nebraskans to go out and find a place to sign it.”
The tone among other reform advocates turned emotional during a NMM press conference on June 22 in Lincoln, the Nebraska Examiner reported.
One mother, Crista Eggers of Omaha, who serves as a campaign chairwoman for NMM, held up a photograph of her 7-year-old son, Colton, who suffers from up to 100 epileptic seizures a day, as she implored Nebraskans to sign the petitions, the news outlet reported.
“Do it for the suffering people in this state who are pleading with you,” Eggers said. “This will fail if you don’t step up. We are begging you.”
Nebraska is one of 13 states where medical cannabis without low-THC restrictions remains illegal. Under current Nebraska laws and penalties, possessing 1 ounce to 1 pound of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by up to three months of incarceration and a $500 fine.