Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) recently provided an update on its journey to collect the necessary number of signatures to qualify its two cannabis legalization ballot initiatives for 2024. 

In order to qualify, Nebraska initiatives need enough to cover 7% of voters in the state, as well as 5% of voters from 38 of the 98 total Nebraska counties. NMM stated that it has collected signatures in 16 counties so far, and plans to add four more counties to that list before the end of 2023.

According to NMM, it will need to collect 125,000 raw signatures for both of its petitions and submit them no later than July 3, 2024. This includes the Patient Protection Act (which would protect patients using medical cannabis from prosecution) and the Medical Cannabis Regulation Act (which would implement a commission to manage a state program and develop a regulatory framework).

In preparation for the year to come, the advocacy group recently asked its followers and supporters on social media to send in any lingering signature petitions as soon as possible. “Nebraska medical cannabis warriors – we need every petition in the state back ASAP so that we can get an accurate count going in to 2024,” NMM wrote. “Whether you have 1 signature or 100 signatures, please send them now. This is crucial for us to allocate our resources wisely next year.”

In an email newsletter, NMM campaign manager Crista Eggers wrote a positive statement about what they’ve accomplished so far, and praised volunteers for their hard work so far. “Since relaunching our campaign, I’m inspired and hopeful to see Nebraskans of all ages, regions, and political affiliations coming together to support legalizing medical marijuana,” Eggers wrote. “Door knocking, house calls, and stopping by a few local establishments, combined with the force and drive of two amazing grassroots collectors, was a force to be reckoned with.”

Earlier this month, NMM posted a story on its social media pages sharing the efforts of two individuals who put their best foot forward for the cause. “Two amazing people went into a county today to collect what we needed to qualify it. Night fell and they still needed about 15 more signatures. They were told they could call it a day, but they said no. They talked with every single person. They made house calls. And they just collected that final signature that got them to their goal,” Eggers explained. “This campaign is made up of these types of stories. This campaign is made up of these types of people. This campaign doesn’t quit until the job is done. Bring it 2024…”

The medical cannabis ballot initiative campaign was launched by NMM earlier this year in May. “We have no choice but to keep petitioning our government,”said Eggers. “The Legislature refuses to act despite the will of over 80% of Nebraskans, from all parties, regions, ages, etc., supporting this.”

Unfortunately, there are key government legislators contributing to the opposition, including Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen recently said that medical cannabis “poses demonstrated harms to our children.” “Access to medical marijuana should only happen if it has undergone the FDA-approved process,” Pillen said in September.

Back in 2021, Sen. Pete Ricketts made headlines when he said: “If you legalize marijuana, you’re going to kill your kids.” Eggers, who is mother to a son who has suffered from epileptic seizures since he was two, responded to the statement at the time, explaining that she knows what’s best for her child. “I know what is killing my child, and that is having horrific seizures daily for the last five, six years,” Eggers said.

A medical cannabis ballot initiative was initially proposed in 2020 but it did not make it onto the ballot because of a Supreme court ruling about the state’s single-subject rule. Advocates got right back to work in 2021 with their eyes set on 2022. “We’ve received so much encouragement from individuals all across the state, who support the many patients like our son Colton, who desperately need access to this medicine,” Eggers wrote at the time. “No matter what your political background is, we should all agree that criminalizing a medicine that has the potential to alleviate suffering, is both cruel and inhumane.” Unfortunately, that initiative didn’t meet the requirement either because volunteers didn’t quite meet the 5% voter signature requirement from 38 out of 93 counties.

Sen. Anna Wishart is the NMM co-chair and has been supporting medical cannabis legislative efforts in the past, although many attempts were met with opposition and stalled in the legislature. Most recently in January 2023, she introduced a medical cannabis bill that she called “one of the most conservative medical cannabis bills in the nation,” but it didn’t not receive any additional advancements after April.

In September Eggers said she looks forward to the day when she can tell her son that they finally succeeded in bringing medical cannabis to their home state. “I do know that day will come when I get to tell him and that he will understand that by sharing something that’s very personal and very painful, he helped make a change,” Eggers told the Nebraska Examiner. “Someday there will be a parent that I get to talk to and they won’t have had to fight this battle.”

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