Advocates who sought to place a pair of medical marijuana access proposals before voters failed to gather the necessary number of signatures required to place them on the November ballot.
Election officials on Monday reported that petitioners had collected fewer than 77,000 total signatures from registered voters for each of the ballot measures. State law required them to gather at least 86,776 signatures from registered voters.
The result was not unexpected, as advocates Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) had suffered several setbacks over the prior months — including the death of a major donor — that had limited their ability to collect signatures.
In 2020, activists met the state’s signature requirement, but nonetheless had their measure struck from the ballot after the Nebraska Supreme Court issued an opinion finding that the initiative’s language violated the state’s single subject rule requirement. That is why this year’s effort is divided into two separate measures.
The state’s outgoing Republican Governor, Pete Ricketts, has been a vocal advocate against any liberalization of the state’s marijuana laws, publicly alleging: “If you legalize marijuana, you’re gonna kill your kids. That’s what the data shows from around the country.”
Speaking to news outlets, NMM Campaign Coordinator Crista Eggers expressed hope that lawmakers may take up the issue in 2023 now about a half million Nebraskans have signed petitions over the past few years in favor of it. “I hope the elected officials are paying attention,” she said. “They have the power to do something.”
Statewide polling indicates that some 77 percent of Nebraskans support legalizing medical cannabis access.
Advocates also indicate that they may be open to considering a broader, adult-use reform measure in 2024.
Voters in Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota will be deciding on adult-use legalization initiatives on Election Day. Proponents of an Arkansas initiative to legalize the adult-use marijuana market are engaged in a legal appeal before the Supreme Court after election officials rejected their proposed ballot title. In Oklahoma, election officials recently verified that proponents gathered the necessary signatures to qualify their legalization proposal, but have also warned that delays in the verification process may jeopardize its inclusion on the 2022 ballot.
In addition to these statewide efforts, voters in dozens of cities will be deciding on municipal ballot questions this fall. For instance, voters in five Texas cities – Denton, Elgin, Harker Heights, Killeen, and San Marcos – will decide on measures seeking to amend local laws curtailing police officers’ authority to “issue citations or make arrests for Class A or Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana offenses” absent a defendant’s alleged involvement in a “felony level narcotics” case. Voters in several Ohio cities will also decide on municipal measures depenalizing activities involving marijuana possession.
In Rhode Island, voters in 31 towns will decide on measures determining whether or not to allow licensed cannabis retailers in their localities. Voters in cities in several other states, including Colorado, Michigan, and Montana, will decide on similar local ballot measures as well.
For a detailed breakdown of 2022 ballot initiatives, please visit NORML’s Election Central.