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Nebraskans Have Already Filed to Legalize Weed in 2022

After a 2020 initiative was stricken from the ballot, two state senators make sure it doesn't happen again.

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Nebraskans who support cannabis legalization are not sitting around and sulking about how the state Supreme Court pulled their initiative off the ballot in 2020. Instead, they've already started taking action to get the job done in 2022.

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It's been a tough road for Nebraska in terms of legalization. After gathering enough signatures to get the issue on the 2020 ballot and getting approval from the Secretary of State, a majority of Supreme Court justices pulled it off the ballot for a technicality.

Making matters worse, Republican Governor Pete Ricketts strongly opposes legalization, calling cannabis a "dangerous drug."

That hasn't deterred supporters. The two State Senators who co-chair Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, Anna Wishart and Adam Morfeld, recently filed new petition language with Secretary of State Bob Evnen for voters to consider for the 2022 ballot.

It simply states: "Persons in the State of Nebraska shall have the right to cannabis in all its forms for medical purposes."

To understand why it's so simple, you must understand what happened with the 2020 ballot initiative.

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Supreme Court derails the 2020 legalization effort

Legal cannabis supporters gathered 190,000 signatures to get medical marijuana on the ballot for 2020—an especially remarkable feat considering they gathered the signatures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Once submitted, the signatures were enough to get the measure approved for the ballot by the secretary of state. Everything seemed set to allow Nebraskans to decide for themselves if they wanted to make medical marijuana legal.

However, the state Supreme Court, by a 5-2 vote, removed the issue from the ballot. The reason? The court decided that the initiative did not meet the "single-subject requirement" for state ballot initiatives. In short, it contained too much detail on the medical marijuana proposal.

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How the new initiative will work

The two senators filed the simple petition language to get around any "single-subject requirement" arguments. Instead, they want to use the approach taken by casino gambling supporters.

In the case of gambling, supporters used a one-sentence approach for the ballot measure. Once approved, statutory initiatives followed. The senators plan to use the same approach for marijuana.

Those statute provisions for marijuana legalization would include allowing people 18 and older to purchase, possess, and use cannabis under the direction of a licensed physician or nurse. It also sets up a system to create licensing for medical marijuana dispensaries.

Supporters believe the new language— just a 19-word sentence—should win approval if challenged in the courts. Barry Rubin, who led the 2020 signature drive, told the Lincoln Journal Star that the proposition meets the single-subject criteria.

"In consultation with several well-regarded Nebraska attorneys, legal scholars, and a former Nebraska Supreme Court justice," Rubin said, "we're confident this language cannot be rejected no matter what type of legal and political gymnastics the court decides to play."

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