A medical cannabis measure that had qualified to appear on Nebraska’s November ballot was blocked by the state Supreme Court on Thursday. Such a reversal is unprecedented when it comes to cannabis-related state ballot measures.
The Court heard arguments last week regarding the medical cannabis question, and its ruling is a reversal of Secretary of State Bob Evnen’s decision last month to allow medical cannabis to appear on the ballot, despite a legal challenge from Terry Wagner, the Sheriff of Lancaster County, Nebraska.
“[Terry Wagner’s] claim is that [Secretary of State Robert] Evnen erred in finding the [Nebraska Medical Cannabis Constitutional Amendment] legally sufficient. According to Wagner, the [Nebraska Medical Cannabis Constitutional Amendment] violates the single subject rule under Neb. Const. art. III, § 2, because its general subject and various other provisions lack any natural and necessary connection with each other. We agree,” the court ruled.
The co-chairs of the medical cannabis campaign, state Senators Adam Morfeld and Anna Wishart, issued a statement to supporters on Thursday, writing: “We are deeply disappointed by the Nebraska Supreme Court’s ruling today. We agree with the dissenting opinion, Secretary of State, and Revisor of Statutes in that our initiative, which nearly 200,000 Nebraskans signed, is legally sufficient and should be on the ballot in November.”
They indicated that their push to bring medical cannabis to Nebraska wasn’t over, adding, “We want to thank all of our dedicated volunteers and supporters. Do not despair — we are going back to the ballot and to the Legislature. Senator Wishart will be back in January with legislation, and we need to focus our energy on moving the hearts and minds of the Nebraska Legislature.”
When Cannabis Wire asked Morfeld if he could elaborate on what they meant that they were “going back to the ballot and to the Legislature,” Morfeld said, “Not at this time.”
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts has been very direct in his opposition to cannabis law reform.
“I firmly oppose legislative legalization and will veto any legislation that attempts to make marijuana use lawful in the Cornhusker State,” he wrote in January, referencing concerns over cannabis-impaired driving crashes, fears over youth use, and increasing concentrations of THC in cannabis products.
“In Nebraska, marijuana proponents have been trying to circumvent the medical research process that has helped our country produce the most safe and effective healthcare in the world. This is the wrong approach. We should stick with the tried-and-true system, which is already doing research on what components of marijuana actually have medical benefits,” Ricketts wrote.
National anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana congratulated their affiliate SAM Nebraska “on the great work they have done over the last year in educating the state on the potential harms of marijuana legalization,” Kevin Sabet, president of SAM, said in a statement to Cannabis Wire. Sabet referenced yesterday’s House Committee on Energy and Commerce vote in favor of HR 3797, a cannabis research bill.
“Until such thorough research is complete, we must cease the policy of deciding what is medicine through politics and ballot measures. Medicine shouldn’t be decided by popular vote,” Sabet continued.
September 11 is the deadline for which the state ballot for the November election must be certified.
Secretary of State Bob Evnen said in a statement, “The Secretary of State is required by statute to issue determinations as to whether initiative petitions are legally sufficient. I did my best to make those determinations on a timely basis in accordance with law. Today the Supreme Court issued its decisions concerning these petitions. I respect the rule of law and I will certify the ballot in compliance with the Court’s orders.”
As Cannabis Wire reported, Nebraska voters were poised to join those in five other states where medical and/or adult use cannabis will be on their November ballots: Arizona (adult use); Mississippi (medical use); Montana (adult use); New Jersey (adult use); and South Dakota (medical and adult use).