Justices ruled that a medical marijuana measure up for vote in November violated state law regarding single-subject initiatives.
Nebraska voters will not see a medical marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot, following Thursday’s decision by the state’s Supreme Court. Opponents filed a lawsuit arguing the measure violated Nebraska’s Constitution and judges ultimately sided with their point of view.
“This is an outrageous and deeply flawed decision by a group of activist judges,” Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Fresh Toast. “This ruling means that sick and suffering medical marijuana patients, including veterans, will continue to be criminals in Nebraska when they try to live healthier lives.”
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana submitted more than 190,000 signatures to qualify legalization for the 2020 election. State law requires at least 122,275 signatures to register a constitutional amendment on the ballot and Secretary of State Bob Evnen ruled last month activists had met that threshold.
Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner challenged Evnen’s ruling in court, stating it violated Nebraska’s single-subject ballot initiative rule. The measure posed two separate questions to voters: 1) Should medical cannabis be legal in the state and 2) should private companies be responsible for selling it. The state dismissed Wagner’s argument but the Supreme Court did not.
“If voters are to intelligently adopt a State policy with regard to medicinal cannabis use, they must first be allowed to decide that issue alone, unencumbered by other subjects,” the judges’ opinion states. “As proposed, the [Nebraska Medical Cannabis Constitutional Amendment] contains more than one subject—by our count, it contains at least eight subjects.”
The judges conclude that, “We reverse the Secretary of State’s decision and issue a writ of mandamus directing him to withhold the initiative from the November 2020 general election ballot.”
Two justices added dissenting opinions to the ruling, writing that they are “concerned that today’s decision has squeezed the concept of single subject…such that the people’s right to initiative has been diminished.”
Wagner was not alone in his opposition to the measure. Earlier this month, Nebraska Gov. Pete Rickets claimed “there is no such thing as medical marijuana.” He argued this is not something a doctor would prescribe and worried medical marijuana would cause workers to “show up to work stoned.”
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana wrote in a Facebook post that they were “devastated” by the ruling.
“But this fight is not over. Nothing changes the fact that an overwhelming majority of Nebraskans stand with the patients and families who deserve compassion and safe access to medical cannabis. We will be regrouping and updating you all soon with plans for our next steps.”