Advocates in Nebraska, one of the few remaining states in the U.S. that have not enacted medical cannabis legislation, recently filed paperwork to get a medical cannabis initiative on the ballot in 2024.
According to the Nebraska Examiner, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana will need more than 200,000 signatures for the initiative to qualify. The group’s spokesperson, Crista Eggers, hopes that the people will override the decisions of her state legislature who have refused to listen to their constituents. “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.”
Eggers also spoke to the Lincoln Journal Star about their hope for medical cannabis. “We know the people support this,” said Eggers. “We are going to execute and put that into motion to have safe and regulated medical cannabis in Nebraska.”
Eggers’ eight-year-old son has been experiencing epileptic seizures since he was two years old. She and her family tried multiple medications that didn’t improve her son’s condition, but eventually tried medical cannabis with success. She has spent the last seven years advocating and working toward legalization for her son and other families across the state.
According to the group’s website, it takes approximately three weeks for the state to certify the initiative. After that, the group can begin to collect signatures.
Medical cannabis can provide relief to Nebraskans who are suffering. We are among the thousands of families and patients who need access,” the Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana states on its website. “Whether it’s a neighbor or a loved one or a friend, most Nebraskans know someone who struggles with a serious health condition. But medical cannabis isn’t an option in our state—even if a doctor recommends it.”
In 2020, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana’s ballot initiative was stripped from the ballot by the Nebraska Supreme Court. The court stated that the initiative violated constitutional requirements for a “single subject” rule, which prompted the group to instead create two initiatives that separately addressed a regulatory framework and established protections for caregivers from arrest.
LB-474 was also introduced in the state legislature in 2021 to consider medical cannabis, but was two votes short in order to pass. Nicole Hochstein, a Nebraska mother of a child who suffers from epilepsy, described her feelings as “Devastated. Broken. In pieces because they literally voted my child’s life away.”
A petition drive in August 2022 failed to receive enough signatures for the 2022 ballot. Although the 184,000 signatures the group collected were not enough, and despite funding woes, the group decided to continue working toward 2024.
In December 2021, former Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts was featured in an ad paid for by Smart Approaches to Marijuana that solidified his opposition on the topic of medical cannabis. “The only difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana is word choice,” the governor said. “Doctors can’t prescribe it and pharmacists can’t provide it because it’s not medicine.”
Earlier that year, he made statements claiming that cannabis “is a dangerous drug that will impact our kids” and “if you legalize marijuana, you’re gonna kill your kids.”
Current Gov. Jim Pillen isn’t a staunch advocate of cannabis, but in February he did confirm support of FDA-approved medicines. “I’m a 100% believer in prescription authority. That’s a place the FDA has done a good job in over the past several years. I’m a proponent of prescription marijuana use if it’s approved through the FDA,” he said.
Medical cannabis laws are still lacking in other states such as Idaho, Indiana, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. In the Americans for Safe Access 2022 State of the States Report, all of these states, including Nebraska, were scored with an “F” across the board for lack of legislation and access for patients.