Nebraska Supreme Court Strikes Medical Marijaua Initiative From Fall Election Ballot
By Bill Kelly , Senior Producer/Reporter Nebraska Public Media
Sept. 10, 2020, 6:17 p.m. ·
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This summer, 123,000 people signed the petition, so there may be fierce support among Nebraskans favoring legalized medical marijuana use. Still, no one will get to vote on the issue this November.
On Thursday, the Nebraska Supreme Court issued a 5-2 split decision that removed this fall’s ballot issue.
Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner, a long-time marijuana opponent, challenged the ballot question before the Nebraska Supreme Court. He’s pleased with the court’s ruling.
“Medicinal marijuana always seems to be the first step in reaching for legalized recreational marijuana, and so this effort was no different than Colorado or any other state that’s done that.”
The merits of medical marijuana were not the issue before the appellate court. Wagner’s attorneys argued last week how proponents presented the question to voters was so flawed as to require it be removed from consideration by voters.
According to the language on the ballot, approved by Secretary of State Robert Evnen, a yes vote would add a Constitutional amendment giving Nebraskans the right to use, purchase and produce cannabis for serious medical conditions if recommended by a doctor.
The opinion released Thursday determined the result would mean several state law changes, including possession, use in public, being under the influence at work, and insurance coverage. According to the court, each represented separate issues that could not be rolled in a single ballot question.
“If voters are to intelligently adopt a State policy with regard to medicinal cannabis use,” the justices wrote, “they must first be allowed to decide that issue alone, unencumbered by other subjects.”
Two of the justices, Judges Jonathan Papik and Lindsey Miller-Lerman, dissented in the opinion, something rare for the Nebraska Supreme Court. The dissenters argued the topics were closely enough related to warrant being grouped in a single ballot question.
The unfavorable ruling represents the latest failure for medical cannabis supporters in the courts and the Nebraska State Legislature.
One of the petition drive leaders, State Senator Anna Wishart, told NET News, “I’m very sad.”
Her voice noticeably emotional, she said she had “put a lot of her heart into this effort” and spoke of others who worked on the petition drive “who are really struggling with serious medical conditions.
“Just the thought of them having to wait longer is very sad.”
Marijuana use is legal in 33 states.
Five other states, Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota, will have the opportunity to vote on legalization this election year.
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