Latest attempt to legalize medical marijuana fails to make Nebraska ballot | Politics

LINCOLN — The latest attempt to legalize medical marijuana in Nebraska will not make it onto the general election ballot.

Both of the petitions for the Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana campaign fell just under 10,000 signatures short of the approximately 87,000 signatures necessary to make it onto the ballot, Secretary of State Bob Evnen announced Monday. 

The campaign submitted about 92,000 signatures for both petitions back in July, but the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office verified only about 77,000 signatures for each petition. 

When the petitions were submitted, those involved with the campaign expressed optimism despite having little cushion for signatures getting tossed out. State Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, the campaign co-sponsor, previously said typical initiatives need a 20% buffer to collect enough signatures to make it on the ballot. Because their campaign was largely volunteer-driven, organizers were hopeful they could get by with less of a buffer. 

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Morfeld said Monday that he always knew that coming up short was a possibility, though the campaign “always held out hope.”

“We are saddened that we couldn’t get across the finish line,” he said. 

It was the second attempt in recent history to get medical marijuana legalization on the ballot in Nebraska. The previous attempt in 2020 was far more well-funded, raising roughly $2.5 million and collecting more than 182,000 signatures. That attempt was disqualified from the ballot by a State Supreme Court decision because it contained more than one subject.  

This year, the same effort didn’t have as much funding at its disposal, largely due to a series of tragedies that cost the campaign two people who were expected to make major contributions to the initiative. The latest report from the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission showed the campaign received nearly $280,000 in contributions as of Aug. 1. 

A legal challenge to Nebraska’s requirement that petition drives collect a certain number of signatures in at least 38 counties made no difference in the outcome.

The case, filed by ACLU of Nebraska on behalf of Crista Eggers and NMM, is pending before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Eggers said in a press release Monday that once the campaign receives the results from the Secretary of State’s Office, organizers will use the information to begin work to qualify for the 2024 ballot. 

“I am heartbroken,” co-sponsor Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln said Monday on Twitter. “I learned when everyone learned that our medical cannabis drive fell short of the signatures needed to qualify. We will take a short moment to mourn this loss, and then get up, dust off, and get back to work to legalize medical cannabis.” 

Meanwhile, two other initiatives that backers hope to get onto the November ballot — one to increase the state’s minimum wage and another to require voters to submit IDs — have yet to hear back on their signature verification from the secretary of state. Both submitted substantially more signatures than the medical marijuana campaign. 

The Secretary of State’s Office said it expects to have updates on both petitions by the end of the month. 

[email protected] Twitter @ErinBamer

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