The Nebraska Secretary of State on Thursday rejected a court challenge to an initiative to legalize medical marijuana, paving the way for the November ballot.
Officials on Wednesday informed the Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana campaign that their measure had enough valid signatures to be eligible. But on the same day, a law firm filed a motion asking the Secretary of State to prevent the initiative from appearing on the ballot because they said it violated the one-subject rule of the State prohibiting voting measures that cover more than one question.
The firm, which did not disclose its clients, also argued that the proposal “creates confusion” and “creates doubt about what will be allowed after the election.”
But Secretary of State Robert Evnen – although he recently excluded three gambling-related initiatives from the poll due to a single-issue dispute – did not accept the legal argument and leaves the measure on cannabis. be decided by the voters.
“Whether the amendment complies with the single subject rule is a close question,” Evnen wrote in his determination.
“The production and sale of medical cannabis has a natural and necessary link with the legalization of medical cannabis for individual use, which is the main objective of the amendment,” he said, explaining why he ultimately rejected the amendment. assertion that the measure covered unrelated issues. “As with other legal medicines, third parties have the right to manufacture, sell and distribute the medicines. It is inherent in the legalization of medical cannabis that a person or a class of persons must be granted the right or authority to produce, sell and distribute medical cannabis. “
The Secretary of State concluded by saying that “the constitutional right to present petitions of initiative for a people’s vote is fundamental for the governance of our State and must be zealously protected”.
“On the basis of my examination and for the reasons set out above, I conclude that the amendment is legally sufficient and that I will not withhold it from the ballot, unless ordered otherwise by a competent court,” he said. declared.
The medical cannabis campaign celebrated the decision.
“We have been working for this moment for a long time, and today we are closer than ever to making medical marijuana safely and legally accessible to patients in Nebraska,” he wrote in an email to supporters. “Of course, it’s far from over. In fact, the real battle has only just begun. But this is the fight we have wanted to fight for years, because we know the people of Nebraska are on our side.
It is not clear whether the law firm representing anonymous residents challenging the ballot measure will appeal Evnen’s decision to court.
The official appeared to bristle at the time of the late challenge in his seven-page response.
“It’s the eleventh hour. The objection to the amendment was received by this office on Wednesday August 26, 2020, only 16 calendar days before the date on which I am required to certify the ballot in its entirety, ”he said. “A question of the magnitude of this case will surely attract a review by the court, no matter what I decide here.”
The Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana submitted nearly 200,000 signatures last month, well over the 121,669 needed to qualify for the ballot.
According to the proposal, doctors could recommend cannabis to patients with debilitating medical conditions, and those patients would then be allowed to “quietly” own, buy and grow marijuana for their personal use.
The Sense. Anna Wishart Legalization Campaign Co-Chairs Adam Morfeld and other lawmakers have tried for years to push medical cannabis bills through the Legislature only to be blocked by opposition from leaders. But with the help of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and other advocacy groups, they decided to bring the issue directly to voters.
This is a big problem and a huge step forward for the campaign.
– Senator Adam Morfeld (@Adam_Morfeld) August 27, 2020
“We’re very happy to see Secretary Evnen doing the right thing,” MPP Campaign Coordinator Jared Moffat told Marijuana Moment. “The Nebraskans said loud and clear they wanted this on the ballot. We are 68 days away from Election Day, and now the real battle begins.
As the campaign suspended signature collection amid the COVID-19 outbreak, it relaunched its efforts in May with new social distance safety protocols in place.
The Nebraska Attorney General said in an opinion last year that efforts to legalize medical marijuana through legislation in the state would be preempted by federal law and “would, therefore, be unconstitutional.”
Here’s an update on the other 2020 drug policy reform campaigns across the country:
A move to legalize marijuana in Arizona officially qualified for the November ballot earlier this month.
The Montana Secretary of State also announced this month that cannabis activists have collected more than enough signatures to qualify two measures as legalization.
The Washington, DC Council of Elections certified this month that activists submitted enough valid signatures to place a decriminalization measure for herbal and mushroom psychedelics in the nation’s capital.
The Oregon Secretary of State confirmed last month that separate measures to legalize psilocybin therapy and decriminalize possession of all drugs while expanding treatment services will be in the November ballot.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and stay-at-home warrants, separate steps to legalize medical and recreational marijuana qualified for South Dakota’s November ballot.
The New Jersey legislature has approved a referendum on the legalization of cannabis to be presented to voters as well.
And in Mississippi, activists have collected enough signatures to qualify a medical cannabis legalization initiative for the ballot – although lawmakers have also approved a competing (and from advocates’ perspective, less desirable) medical marijuana proposal. which will appear alongside the campaign-backed initiative.
Idaho activists behind a medical marijuana legalization initiative were hoping for a second wind after a federal judge recently said the state must arrange for a voting campaign separated due to complications in collecting signatures caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But following a US Supreme Court ruling against the other group last week, hopes are dashed.
A campaign to legalize cannabis in Missouri has officially given up on its efforts for 2020 because collecting signatures was next to impossible in the face of social distancing measures.
North Dakota’s marijuana legalization campaigners are shifting focus and will seek to qualify for the 2022 poll.
Activists in Washington state had planned to pursue a decriminalization and drug treatment measure through the ballot, but citing concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak, announced last month that they would target rather the legislature.
Read the Nebraska Secretary of State’s letter on the medical marijuana vote measurement below:
Medical Cannabis Initiative… by Marijuana Moment
Marijuana should be ‘left in US’, says Republican National Committee leader
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.