Like many other ballot initiative campaigns across the country, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana faced a great deal of uncertainty as the COVID-19 pandemic left circulators unable to gather signatures.
As state officials began to loosen coronavirus restrictions, the campaign announced plans to resume its signature drive while maintaining strict safety guidelines.
All circulators must wear masks and gloves, and will offer signers clean, sanitized pens, as well as hand sanitizer. Circulators are maintaining six feet of distance with signers, often setting up at a table, or in one unique case, out of the bed of a pick-up truck, according to Jared Moffat, a campaigns coordinator for the Marijuana Policy Project, which is supporting the campaign.
“In Nebraska, you have to read the object statement of the initiative while the person is signing,” Moffat told Cannabis Business Times. “Some of our volunteers have a little notecard, and they just read the statement from a distance while the person’s at the table signing.”
The campaign plans to follow all state guidelines and public health directives as they are updated, Moffat added, and he is optimistic that Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana can still gather the roughly 125,000 required signatures before the July 2 deadline to qualify for the ballot.
“We’re not halfway yet,” Moffat said. “We have a lot to go, but we’re still very confident that we have a good shot at doing this. Again, it’s been done, and more signatures have been collected in a shorter time period in other campaigns. It’s a huge task, but we still think there’s a very good shot at making it.”
Based on polling, Moffat estimates that roughly 70% of Nebraskans support medical cannabis legalization.
“That’s a very healthy number to have,” he said. “Our main goal is to put it on the ballot, and we feel pretty confident that if it can qualify for the ballot, then we’re going to get this done.”
The initiative itself is a constitutional amendment that broadly establishes the right for patients who have approval from their doctors to access medical cannabis. It authorizes the legislature to establish a regulated system to produce and distribute medical cannabis products to patients, but does not provide any detail into how that system will work.
“There will need to be legislative implementation that goes along with this, [and] it’s hard to say what that’s going to look like,” Moffat said. “I think if we succeed in qualifying, then you’re going to start to see more legislators take a position on how they want this to look.”
The campaign formed in the first place, he added, because the Nebraska Legislature has largely been unwilling to pass a medical cannabis law, despite strong public support.
“We know we have some opponents in the legislature and certainly in the governor’s office—he’s one of the most vocal opponents of what we’re doing,” Moffat said. “But at the same time, if it’s a constitutional right, it has to be implemented in some way. That right has to be respected, which is why the committee is pursuing a constitutional initiative as opposed to a statutory one.”
For right now, the campaign is laser focused on qualifying for the ballot, and Moffat said circulators have been reporting strong support from the public.
“We’re hearing mostly positive feedback from the circulators—people are happy to sign and they’re coming up to them—so it seems like things are going well,” he said. “It’s all about the signature drive until July."
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