Nebraska Advocacy Group Continues Pushing for Medical Cannabis Legalization

September 27, 2023 · High Times

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) is continuing to ramp up its medical cannabis ballot campaign for a third, and hopefully last time.

NMM officially launched its campaign on Sept. 13 with two different measures: The Patient Protection Act and The Medical Cannabis Regulation Act. The former would provide protection for both patients as well as caregivers, and the latter would set up a regulated market. In order to qualify for the November 2024 ballot, NMM must collect at least 87,000 signatures per measure by July 3, 2024.

NMM campaign manager, Crista Eggers, who has been involved in previous ballot initiatives for medical cannabis in her state, is remaining hopeful and steadfast in her mission. “I do know that day will come when I get to tell [my son] and that he will understand that by sharing something that’s very personal and very painful, he helped make a change. Someday there will be a parent that I get to talk to and they won’t have had to fight this battle,” Eggers told the Nebraska Examiner. “It will be worth it for that one parent that does not face what so many of us face.”

Eggers is a mother of a nine-year-old son who has suffered from epileptic seizures since he was two years old. Although they had tried a myriad of pharmaceutical medications, medical cannabis became the best option. In 2020, Eggers praised the possibility of the first medical cannabis legalization ballot initiative as a way for parents to help get treatments for their children without being criticized. “Right now to get our son the help he needs, we’re criminals and that’s what this is about, empowering Nebraskans to have this choice and be patients, not criminals,” Eggers said at the time. “We do expect the opposition to do whatever possible to derail this.”

The 2020 Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative did not make it on the ballot because the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the initiative violated the state’s single-subject rule.

Eggers and other advocates also pushed for legalization again in 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 said. “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.” The 2022 Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative also did not make it onto the ballot in 2022 because volunteers did not collect the necessary 5% of voters signatures from a minimum of 28 out of the state’s 93 counties.

In January this year, Eggers explained that she will continue to advocate for legal access to cannabis as medicine. “There is one thing we will not do, and that is give up,” she told the Nebraska Examiner. She also said she’s hopeful that more progress can be made with a new administration and new governor.

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen took office in January 2023, and his stance on medical cannabis is similar to that of his predecessor, former Gov. Pete Ricketts. “Access to medical marijuana should only happen if it has undergone the FDA-approved process,” Pillen has previously said.

Sen. Anna Wishart, who co-chairs NMM alongside former Sen. Adam Morfeld, has been a longtime supporter of medical cannabis legalization. Wishart has previously introduced medical cannabis bills on the legislative side, including one bill in 2021 that was two votes short of passing in a judiciary committee.

Also in January 2023, Wishart introduced another medical cannabis bill, Legislative Bill 588, entitled the “Medicinal Cannabis Act,” which Wishart described as “one of the most conservative medical cannabis bills in the nation.” “It is long past time that Nebraskans have access to a far safer alternative medicine,” Wishart added. Although LB-588 was introduced in January, it did not receive any further hearings after April.

In Nebraska, legislators are limited to two consecutive terms, and must wait for four years to run for congress again. Wishart is somewhat nearing the end of her two terms in January 2025, and expressed her desire to fight for medical cannabis while she’s still in office.

Legislative opposition to medical cannabis has been presented with negative, antiquated comments. In 2021, former Gov. Ricketts said: “If you legalize marijuana, you’re going to kill your kids.”

Eggers responded to the comment, explaining that she knows better than Ricketts in terms of what’s best for her son. “I know what is killing my child, and that is having horrific seizures daily for the last five, six years,” Eggers said, noting that cannabis was helping, not harming.

Nebraska is just one of a few states that have not legalized medical cannabis at this point, including Alabama, Idaho, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wyoming. Even in these regions where cannabis has not yet been embraced, progress is slowly making its way forward. 

For example, although North Carolina has no medical cannabis, let alone recreational cannabis, the North Carolina Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians recently voted on a proposal to approve recreational cannabis sales and regulation on its territory. The Tribal Council must now choose to pass the proposal in order for it to become official. (Full Story)

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