Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana filed a federal lawsuit against the state on Monday, May 16. The group argues that Nebraska law gives voters in rural areas outsized influence over potential ballot initiatives. According to Nebraska’s Constitution, initiatives can only get added to ballots when groups get signatures from at least 5 percent of registered voters in 38 of the state’s 93 counties.
Medical Cannabis Ballot Initiative Came Close in 2020
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana has dedicated years of effort to getting approval for a ballot initiative that would let voters decide whether the state legalizes medical cannabis. It says that it reached its goal and the question should have gone to the public.
Ultimately, the Nebraska Supreme Court sided against Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana on technical grounds.
Legislators in Nebraska have shown little interest in giving residents access to cannabis, even for treating a limited number of health conditions. For the time being, a ballot initiative is the only way for legalization to move forward.
The 5% Rule Gives Rural Voters Too Much Power
After losing in the Supreme Court, the group has decided to challenge the state Constitution in federal court. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana must gather at least 87,000 signatures for the question to appear on the 2022 ballot. Since many of those signatures must come from small rural voters, the group says the law silences the voices of voters in larger cities and towns.
The group argues that one voter in Arthur County has the power of 1,216 voters in Douglas County, where Omaha is located.
The lawsuit has been turned over to State Attorney General Doug Peterson, a Republican who has served in the position since 2015. Now, the group will have an opportunity to make its case in a federal court.